Yes, it’s dumb and yes, it’s a 15-minute skit stretched out to 80 minutes, but I have to admit it — it is very funny.
MTV’s Jamie Kennedy plays Brad Gluckman, son of a wealthy man (Ryan O’Neal) who is running for governor. Brad and his friends are posers (sometimes known as wiggers) who adopt the clothing, slang, and outlook of black rappers from the poorest and most violent communities. He insists on being called B-Rad, and has made a demo album called “Mali-booty.”
This is an embarrassment to the campaign, so the candidate’s political advisor (Blair Underwood) hires two clasically trained actors to pretend to be real gangstas and “scare the black out of” Brad and turn him back into acting like Richie Cunningham (from television’s “Happy Days”). The actors (Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson), despite the fact that rap style is even more foreign to them than it is to residents of Malibu.
Subtle and sophisticated are not terms that belong anywhere near this movie, but I have to say that compared to the numbingly formulaic “black people teach white people about how much more there is to life” themes of recent films like “Bringing Down the House” and “Head of State,” this movie is more even-handed and generous-hearted. And unlike those other movies, it has enough confidence and respect for the audience to put some of its best jokes in throwaway lines instead of spotlighting them with everything but a drum roll. The relationship between Diggs and Anderson’s characters is deliciously loopy as they evaluate each others’ performances in the midst of complete catastrophe. Snoop Dog makes a surprise appearance that only those who can recognize his voice will catch. And if the movie’s final message is, “Be yourself, even if that self is a talentless poser whose appreciation of another culture is all-encompassing,” at least that message is kind of sweet.
Parents should know that the questionable material in this movie is relatively mild for the genre. We see a man lying down with two women, but fully clothed and doing nothing more than kissing. A couple appears to be engaged in oral sex but really is not. The only nudity is a glimpse of some tush clevage. There is comic peril, including a lot of gunplay, but no one is hurt. Characters use bad language, but nothing as raunchy as in real rap songs.
Families who see this movie should talk about why people are drawn to other cultures and when it is possible to “be yourself” by immersion in a culture that is not your own. There is a long tradition of white performers co-opting the music and humor of ethnic performers. How do the themes of this movie relate, for example, to “8 Mile,” starring and inspired by Eminem, a white rapper?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Tommy Boy.”