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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Bamboozled

Starring: Damon Wayans, Savion Glover
Director: Spike Lee
Rated: R
RunTime: 135 Minutes
Release Date: October 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Michael Rapaport, Savion Glover, Mos Def, Tommy Davidson, Charli Baltimore, Al Sharpton

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie review
2.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

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

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