At times, during this movie, I looked up at the ceiling, not so much casting my eyes heavenward for assistance as trying to find something more interesting to look at than what was on the screen. The ceiling won, hands down.
Then there were other moments when I watched the movie trying to imagine how it would have been different if the screenplay had been written, not by Wayne Conley of Nickelodeon’s “Kenan & Kel” and “Nick Cannon Show” but by the Grand Klagon of the Ku Klux Klan, and deciding that other than possibly being more sophisticated and less racist, there would have been almost no difference at all.
This is a dumb, offensive, poorly paced, and downright incompetent movie about three different plans to kidnap a very wealthy and obnoxious man named King (Anthony Anderson) who is about to get divorced. He plans his own kidnapping to keep his assets away from his wife. Meanwhile, an aggrieved employee (Nicole Ari Parker) wants revenge and a guy who lives in his grandmother’s basement (Jay Mohr) needs $10,000 for his gangsta sister.
The three plans collide, giving rise to a series of scenes in which people either explain what is going on or make fake jokes, mostly low comedy-style insults and comments indicating that the characters are rapacious, greedy, stupid, liars, old, have too much sex, or have too little. Then it sinks even lower as the kidnap victim teaches the kidnapper to be more assertive (by smacking him in the face with a mustard-smeared slice of bread) and the estranged couple has to find a way to work together and it brings back fond memories. The comic timing is way off and even talented performers like Anderson, Mohr, Parker, and Regina Hall (as the mistress) do little more than shout and wave their arms. I think I caught a couple of distress signals; I know I wanted to send one back.
Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of crude humor, including “jokes” about menstruation, bikini waxes, prison rape, and oral sex and some homophobic situations. There is some strong and raunchy language and potty humor. Characters drink and smoke. The movie has a good deal of “comic” violence, including a punch in the crotch.
Parents who see this movie should talk about what was important to King, Andre, Miss Gladys, and Renee. They should also talk about the movie’s use of caricature.
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the classic kidnap comedy (mature material) Ruthless People, 9 to 5, and the one that started it all, The Ransom of Red Chief. The Ref is a scathing comedy about a robber who holds a warring couple hostage, with outstanding performances by Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and Judy Davis.