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Bamboozled (R)
New Line Cinema
Official Site

Director: Spike Lee

Producers: Jon Kilik, Spike Lee

Written by: Spike Lee

Cast: Damon Wayans, Savion Glover, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson, Michael Rapaport

Rating: ----

I have to give Spike some props to start this review. Of the major independent directors of today he is turning into the most prolific. I didn't hear much about this film until right before it came out. How many years has it been since Tarantino made JACKIE BROWN? Spike has made three or more movies since then. Not all great films, but interesting social commentary. It was only fitting that I saw this film on Election Day.

This is one of those movies that needs to marinate a little in the head, but I'm gonna write this on the gut. This may get a bit unP.C. , but that reflects the subject matter.

The story is relatively simple. Damon Wayans plays the role of Pierre Delacroix. That name is not the only thing that's bullshit about him. He is the only black writer on a major network TV writing staff. Rapaport is the young wannabe-black executive who entrusts his only black writer with the responsibility of creating the new, hip black TV program. Rapaport is great as a character he has played in a number of films—the white guy who desperately wants to be down, trying to live an experience that is completely alien to him. He doesn't want the bullshit middle-class sitcoms, he wants ghetto. The problem is Delacroix has had a bug up his ass his entire life, trying to make himself white. To escape from the ghetto, kind of like what TV is. That was sounding way too philosophical. Delacroix's brainstorm is to turn two black street performers (Glover and Davidson) into black-faced vaudeville performers. There's a lot of stuff to dig into here, but I'll save that for the college professors. Racey (literally) issues for primetime TV. He confides to his assistant (Pinkett Smith) that this is his plan to get fired from his job. I've seen where this goes.

Of course the show becomes a hit. Resurrecting slave mentality plays great on white-dominated primetime TV. The rest of the movie is the backlash against the show, culminating into an act of black-on-black violence.

The first third of this movie was very funny. The social commentary during the creation of the show is right on. Things started to change once the show went on air. We watch two black men in burnt-cork faces make fools of themselves in front of the live studio audience. It got very hard to watch. I wanted to see something different, but I knew how this story was going to end. By the end I was shell-shocked from all the images of early post-slavery. Spike may disagree, but I would like to believe that most people have risen above that shit.

As usual this Spike film has a blazing soundtrack. Lots of Stevie Wonder with some contemporary rap thrown in. Several rappers also make appearances in the film as members of the Mau Maus, a crew of militant rappers. The poet Mums is also a member of the group. The Mau Maus are like the rest of the movie, funny until the show gets real.

I think people need to see this movie. Not because it is great, but because of the topics raised. This is a film the black community should see, but I don't think it's going to reach that audience. Instead I predict it turns into an arthouse film that mostly Spike Lee fans and college students will see. Spike is making films about topics textbooks don't teach, and you don't learn racism from books. I've seen better Spike Lee movies. And please Spike, next time you make a movie, shoot it on film.

—Matt Black

HYBRID Ratings Guide:

***** Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

**** It’s worth a full-price ticket.

*** It’s worth a matinee ticket.

** Wait for video rental.

* Check out the video from the library, if you must.

0 While I would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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