Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: "Malibu’s Most Wanted" Still Funny

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 76 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003)
Running time: 86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual humor, language and violence
DIRECTOR: John Whitesell
WRITERS: Fax Bahr, Adam Small, Jamie Kennedy, and Nick Swardson
PRODUCERS: Fax Bahr, Mike Karz, and Adam Small
EDITOR: Cara Silverman
COMPOSER: John Van Tongeren


Starring: Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs, Anthony Anderson, Regina Hall, Blair Underwood, Damien Dante Wayans, Ryan O’Neal, Bo Derek, Jeffrey Tambor, and Snoop Dogg (voice)

The subject of this movie review is Malibu’s Most Wanted, a 2003 comedy co-written by and starring Jamie Kennedy. The film focuses on the character “B-Rad,” which Kennedy initially used in his stand-up comedy act and later featured on his hidden camera television series, “JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.”

Brad Gluckman (Jamie Kennedy) is B-Rad, a white Jewish boy from Malibu who is a wannabe rap star and “acts like he’s from the ‘hood.” The problem is that his father Bill (Ryan O’Neal) is a California gubernatorial candidate, and B-Rad’s thuggish behavior might cost him the election.

Tom Gibbons (Blair Underwood), his father’s campaign manager, hires two actors to scare the black out of B-Rad. If Julliard-trained Sean (Taye Diggs) and Pasadena Playhouse thespian P.J. (Anthony Anderson) can convince B-Rad that they’re carjackers, they just might put the white back in Brad’s act. However, B-Rad ain’t having it; before long he’s in love with Sean and P.J.’s accomplice Shondra (Regina Hall), an ambitious young woman with business dreams.

First, let me say that Malibu’s Most Wanted is simply hilarious. I laughed as much as I did at any other recent film including Bringing Down the House. Malibu Most Wanted, like the latter film, involves a traditionally, but especially of late, touchy subject: the portrayal of African-American (or just plain black folks) and black culture in Hollywood films. The film allegedly pokes fun at white kids who embrace hip hop culture, but who also embrace it with such relish that they try to “act black.”

However, the film makes a point of differentiating between poseurs and whites who are really into that chocolate flava. A friend of mine called white poseurs, “Negro lite” – all the style and coolness without the persecution of being black. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with white people embracing hip hop culture or black language, style, fashion, attitude, and lifestyle. People of different backgrounds and cultures cross pollinate; the Romans certainly enjoyed copying the Greeks.

Some people seem to think that it was beneath African-American actors to participate in movies like Malibu's Most Wanted and Brining Down the House. Black actors just go where the work is. Lord knows that Taye Diggs, handsome, talented, and possessing a deft comic touch, should be a leading man fighting off producers who constantly beat at his door to have him be the star of their next film. That’s not happening. And Anthony Anderson is no less funny than Seann William Scott (American Pie and Dude, Where’s My Car?), so he should also have many comic vehicles coming his way, shouldn’t he?

Regina Hall is sexy and beautiful, capable of being more than just the black girl with an attitude. After seeing her in Malibu's Most Wanted, I left the theatre wondering why I haven’t seen more of her; then, I pass by a poster for the overexposed Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and a Ho. Oh, nothing on Reese. I love her, and all things being equal, Regina came into the world with the exact same chance for opportunity as Reese, right? So they go where the work is. Besides, I love the subtle, sly, and wink-wink/nudge-nudge performances by Diggs, Anderson, and Blair Underwood.

Jamie Kennedy, his writers and the director, John Whitesell (a veteran director of various episodes of many television programs) do a good job with what could have been a one-note joke that dies quickly. The script is pedestrian in a number of ways, but especially in the story’s resolution. B-Rad justifies himself and his interest in hip hop, connects with the black folk, and makes up with his dad, but there are also lots of nice touches. Hell, he even gets the black woman, which I thought the filmmakers would avoid like the plague. Even the predictable material has a nice, funny spin on it. The main point of this movie is to be funny, and it’s damn funny. Its secondary nature is to make a lot of good points, and despite Malibu Most Wanted’s often tactless script, it does that, too. When all is said and done, Malibu’s Most Wanted is funny, and in the long term, it’ll be an important work in the canon of films about black culture.

How many people notice that for all the parody of hip hop that is done in this film, B-Rad is absolutely and honestly in love with hip hop? For all the whining that many people do about how “black culture” is ignored, they should notice the adoration, even when it is disguised as a sow’s ear.

6 of 10

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