Don't be bamboozled. BAMBOOZLED, by acclaimed writer/director/producer
Spike Lee (MALCOLM X), is a preachy and pretentious social satire,
featuring black-faced minstrels, that's quite embarrassing and never
funny. The acting, worthy of an amateur improvisational group, is
awkward with a capital A. And the film is extra long so that Lee can
beat us over the head with his message. Easily the worst film of his
career, it is so full of bad racial stereotypes that if a white
filmmaker had made it -- remember the flack Ted Danson got for
attempting black-faced humor -- the movie would probably be picketed.
In a stilted, unrealistic and unconvincing performance, Damon Wayans
stars as Pierre Delacroix, the only black writer for an upstart
television network. Pierre, who speaks like a tape running at half
speed, is as painful to listen to as someone scraping their fingernails
across a blackboard. "I h-a-v-e a c-o-n-c-e-p-t," he says, accompanied
with exaggerated hand gestures. His big idea is a television series
called "Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show," set in a watermelon
patch and featuring black-faced black actors. His favorite word to draw
out, which he uses profusely, is "N-e-g-r-o." He tells his white boss
(Michael Rapaport), for example, "I'm ready to dig d-e-e-p into my
s-o-u-l as a N-e-g-r-o."
The stars of the variety show, which starts a black-faced fad in America
that outdoes the Beanie Babies craze, are two homeless tap dancers,
Mantan (Savion Glover) and Sleep 'n Eat (Tommy Davidson). Pierre
introduces them to his boss as "two real coons." Racial slurs abound in
the script. Both actors are uneasy about their new names (Mantan's real
name is Manray, and Sleep 'n Eat's is Womack), but they are willing to
stuff their pride for the opportunity of gainful employment. Only Sloan
Hopkins (Jada Pinkett Smith), Pierre's disapproving assistant, is
willing to voice strong reservations about the propriety of the project.
The didactic movie insults the viewer's intelligence at every turn.
It's hard to pinpoint the lowest and most despicable episode in a story
filled with vile moments, but the lowest of the low may be the
television show's commercial. It advertises a malt liquor called Da
Bomb that comes in the shape of a bomb. A bunch of wasted black actors
swear by its potency, bragging that it's 120 proof.
The film's ending, which shamelessly rips off NETWORK, transforms this
would-be comedy into a highly manipulative tragedy. After BAMBOOZLED,
anything Spike Lee does will be a huge improvement.
BAMBOOZLED runs an excruciatingly long 2:15. It is rated R for strong
language and some violence and would be acceptable for high school
seniors and older.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes