The release of Money Talks follows closely that of Nothing to Lose, with which it shares a number of traits. Both films feature a yuppified white guy who, through a series of bizarre circumstances, ends up on the lam with a loud, funny and misunderstood African-American petty thief. There is, however, one overriding difference. The painful Money Talks makes the amiable but by no means flawless Nothing to Lose look like a masterpiece in comparison.

Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence played off each other to great comic effect, but the makers of Money Talks should have bought their stars a chemistry set, for there is absolutely none between Chris Tucker, who can be very funny, and Charlie Sheen, who seems to have two emotions: awkward and very awkward.

Money Talks was written by part of the team that brought us the inspired Toy Story, who, by the looks of things here, urgently need to have their creative batteries recharged. The inane story-which features a very high body count for a comedy-focuses on Franklin Hatchett (Tucker), a fast-talking ticket scalper who is arrested, cuffed to the evil diamond smuggler Villard (Gerard Ismael), and blamed for a series of murders actually commited by Villard during their escape from prison.

Hatchett, a reluctant participant in the escape and now wanted for killing cops, turns to James Russell (Sheen), a loudmouth TV reporter who has just been fired but who sees Hatchett as his ticket back to his job. Russell wants to keep Hatchett hidden over the weekend until sweeps period begins, but, of course, the best laid plans of mice and caricatures often go astray, and the two manage to get themselves into all sorts of trouble before it all ends noisily at the L.A. Coliseum.

A subplot concerning Russell's impending wedding to Grace (Heather Locklear) does give Tucker a chance to cut loose and provide the film with some genuine laughs. Brought to the rehearsal dinner, Hatchett tells Russell's future father-in-law Guy (Paul Sorvino) that he is actually Vic Damone, Jr. and, offering a toast to the couple, Hatchett invokes Barry White's 'You're My First, My Last, My Everything.' These scenes, however, have little to do with the rest of the film and the fun quickly fades.

Money Talks is director Brett Ratner's feature debut, and he's off to a shaky start. His previous credits include a number of short films and music-videos, and his inexperience with long-form material shows in his inability to sustain any real narrative drive or character development. Money Talks is mainly a showcase for the talented Tucker, and unfortunately doesn't add up to much else.

--Rod Granger