Jumping the Broom

May 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Angela Bassett
Directed by: Salim Akil (debut)
Written by: Elizabeth Hunter (debut) and Arlene Gibbs (debut)

There’s really nothing to celebrate when the best thing about an African American dramedy these days is the fact that it doesn’t feature Tyler Perry in old-lady drag – or Perry’s name anywhere in the credits for that matter. It’s especially unimpressive since a film like “Jumping the Broom” is committed just the same to exposing every social and racial stereotype it can from its check list and calling it humor.

Directed by Samil Akil, who helms the BET TV series “The Game” about a medical student turned football wife, Broom finds ways to lambaste its core audience during a wedding weekend at Martha’s Vineyard shared by two families with incompatible personalities, tastes and bank accounts.

Loretta Devine plays a mother who doesn’t get why her son (Laz Alonso) wants to marry a girl who’d rather serves oysters than collard greens at their reception. Angela Bassett returns the favor as a mother sickened by the thought of her daughter (Paula Patton) marrying into a family eager to dance the Electric Slide.

Toss in a few black-people-love-chicken jokes, a Kunta Kinte mention, and a script weakened by cliché dialogue, paper-thin relationships, and exaggerated attitudes, and the exchanging of the vows can’t come soon enough.

Madeas Big Happy Family

April 30, 2011 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Cassi Davis
Directed by: Tyler Perry (“For Colored Girls”)
Written by: Tyler Perry (“For Colored Girls”)

Devout followers aside, director/writer Tyler Perry isn’t doing anyone any favors with his latest dysfunctional dramedy.

“Madea’s Big Happy Family” is so obnoxious, annoying, unfunny, and downright hateful, that watching lunatics freaking out on stage during a paternity episode of “Maury Povich” would be better received. At least “Povich” feels scripted.

With “Family,” the screenplay is merely a collection of pathetically weak male characters and overtly aggressive she-devils who lead hypocritical lives and learn absolutely nothing about salvation and forgiveness.

Loretta Devine does her best as a frustrated matriarch attempting to get her grown children together for dinner to reveal her declining health, but Perry’s pity party overstays its welcome to the point where you wish Devine would skip over the repetitious plot points and just play in traffic.

After 11 films in only seven years, Perry has taken full advantage of the lowbrow niche and raked in millions. To pretend he is the voice of Black America — even for entertainment purposes alone — is disconcerting, irresponsible and, honestly, a little scary.

Lottery Ticket

August 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Ice Cube
Directed by: Erik White (debut)
Written by: Abdul Williams (debut)

As an urban-centric summer offering, “Lottery Ticket” begins with a handful of surprisingly solid laughs before quickly backpedaling into a second-rate mainstream comedy reminiscent of others produced by Ice Cube like “Barbershop” and “Beauty Shop.” Sure, things could’ve come out a lot worse (“First Friday” comes to mind), but the humorous setup can’t compete with a first-time director and screenwriter who can’t quite execute the more insightful issues they hoped to highlight.

Rap artist Bow Wow – in his fifth major film release – stars as Kevin Carson, a young Footlocker employee who dreams to one day move out of his neighborhood and own his own shoe company.

When Kevin reluctantly buys a lottery ticket and finds out the following day that he has hit the $370-million jackpot, he, his grandmother (Loretta Devine), and his best friend Benny (Brandon T. Jackson) aren’t the only ones jumping for joy. When news hits the streets about Kevin’s good fortune, the entire neighborhood comes looking for him and wants to share in his newfound wealth.

With the lottery ticket office closed for the Fourth of July, Kevin has to get through the weekend without doing anything to jeopardize the tiny paper ticket in his pocket. Instead of doing what most sane people would do (leaving town and holding up in a hotel for a few days or even going to the bank and putting the ticket in a safety deposit box), screenwriter Abdul Williams leaves Kevin out to fend for himself against his riotous neighbors, a kingpin (Keith David) who befriends him after his win, and the local ex-con bad boy (Gbenga Akinnagbe) who also wants to cash in big.

Ice Cube takes a smaller role as Mr. Washington, a mysterious old man and former boxer who hangs out in his basement and never leaves his home. He takes kindly to Kevin who doesn’t mind running small errands for the elderly recluse. Although he acts as the voice of reason, Cube dressed in old man makeup is about as funny as Tyler Perry in a muumuu.

Aside from the authentic friendship between Kevin and Benny, which leads to the more dramatic moments of the film, “Lottery Ticket” begins to drown as it attempts to sidestep some of its earlier faults. When Benny preaches to Kevin that he needs to make a difference in his community with the money he’s won, the message feels hypocritical when you think back to the point in the film where Benny goes on a selfish little shopping spree.

“Lottery Ticket” could be a vehicle for a some escapism (who hasn’t thought about what they would do if they got so lucky?), but the shoddy blend of social commentary and stereotypical humor doesn’t make for much of a trip anywhere.