Usually, the worst thing about a movie like this is the waste of talent. Yes, this movie wastes the talent of Orlando Jones (the guy from the 7-Up commercials who was terrific in “The Replacements”) and Eddie Griffin and especially the wonderful Vivica A. Fox. But worse than that, it wastes a wonderful idea. This could have been the movie that “Bamboozled” could not be, a satiric swipe at the way that black men, both upper-class and street, are seen by American society — and each other.
Orlando Jones plays a highly successful investment banker with a supermodel girlfriend. He is so uptown that he even has a financial last name — Chase. But that name takes on another meaning when he is framed for murder and has to get to Mexico, where he will be under the protection of a CIA agent who knows he is innocent. How does a black man become invisible? He switches clothes with a street hustler named Freddy Tiffany (Griffin). They take a train out of town, but when the bad guys come after them, they have to figure out another way to travel.
What humor there is comes from Chase having to “act black.” After one high-jiving performance, Tiffany asks, “What’s the last movie you seen, ‘Car Wash?'” Chase shows that he has “kept it real” on some level by out-dancing and out-foxing Tiffany. But no effort is made to take on the real underlying issues, with the possible exception of Tiffany’s comment when he is frisked by policemen: “Do I look like Puff Daddy?” and his point to Chase that “It wasn’t the brother in the suit but the suit on the brother that got you your so-called respect.”
The jokes are tired and so is the plot, with the least surprising twists and turns we are likely to see this year. We guess way ahead of the characters who will turn out to be a good guy and who won’t. It’s a terrible waste of the actors. It’s even a waste of the film.
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of violence, including shoot-outs. Characters use a lot of bad language, including the n-word. One character gives the finger.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we jump to conclusions based on someone dresses or speaks and what the movie can and could tell us about the way blacks are perceived by whites and by each other.
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the far superior comedy, “Silver Streak” and the even more superior thriller “North by Northwest.”