The Whole Ten Yards is the zany hitman action-comedy sequel that nobody asked for – and yes, in case you’re wondering, it’s every bit as nonsensical and overitalicized a mess as ”The Whole Nine Yards.” There’s one difference: In the first film, the members of the patchwork cast looked as if they had no reason to be doing anything that they were doing. Now they’ve got a motive (of sorts): They’re starring in the follow-up to a hit movie! This has infused everyone with a bizarre confidence that works to the film’s advantage. It’s still a frantic, cheesy slop heap that exemplifies everything that’s gone wrong in Hollywood over the last 20 years (to say that the script was written by George Gallo is an insult to the word written), but Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, and Kevin Pollak attack each and every absurd scene with a we-know-this-is-crap-but-we’re-having-fun-anyway gusto that recalls how the cast of ”The Carol Burnett Show” used to pump life into a really bad sketch by acting as if it was the most uproarious thing in the world.
Perry is actually much better than he was the first time around. As Oz, the mild, klutzy dentist who ends up, for no good reason, in the middle of kidnappings and shoot-outs, he gives a physically energized nerd performance out of the arm-waving Jerry Lewis school. I won’t put you to sleep by recounting the convolutions that pass for a plot, but suffice it to say that Oz’s wife, played by a morose Natasha Henstridge (the one performer who doesn’t appear to be enjoying herself), has been kidnapped by Pollak’s Lazlo Gogolak, a recently paroled crime boss who’s the father of the character Pollak played in the original film. Wearing an ascot, Larry Tate’s hair, and Lew Wasserman’s glasses, Pollak speaks in a Funny Accent that sounds like a cross between Yiddish and Italian. He doesn’t win big laughs, exactly, but he amuses himself mightily, and that’s the spirit of the movie.
As the addled hitman Jimmy, Willis may be coasting all the way to the bank, but what he brings to ”The Whole Ten Yards” is a bona fide star projection of annoyance and rage. Willis in disguise as a homemaker in fuzzy slippers fawning over his latest recipe is not funny, but Willis yelling at Perry as if he had nothing but genuine contempt for the man’s existence is…a wee bit funny. In 2004, that’s entertainment. Or not.