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Baby Boy

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Baby Boy

Starring: Tyrese Gibson, Ving Rhames
Director: John Singleton
Rated: R
RunTime: 129 Minutes
Release Date: June 2001
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Angell Conwell, Omar Gooding, Taraji P. Henson, Alexsandra Wright, Tamara LaSeon Bass, A.J. Johnson

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

"Why are you so afraid to leave the nest?" Jody's mother (A.J. Johnson) asks him. After all, he's a grown man with two families, having had babies out of wedlock with two different women, but Jody (Tyrese Gibson) stays at home with his mother. He reminds his mother, who doesn't look much older than he does, that "her" home originally belonged to his grandmother.

The theme of BABY BOY is the way that society has encouraged black men to never grow up. As proof of this thesis, we are reminded in voice-over of the words that black men use to describe their world. Their girlfriends are called their "mamas," their buddies are their "boys" and their home is their "crib."

Jody's mother is about to start a live-in arrangement with Melvin (Ving Rhames), an ex-con who recently spent ten years in San Quentin for "killing folks and other stuff." Jody tries to be cool around Melvin, which isn't always easy. "You have a good time, mama," Jody tells her on her first date out with Melvin. "You remember your curfew." A bigger challenge comes when Jody wakes one morning to find a buck-naked Melvin fixing eggs in the kitchen. With Melvin's rippling muscles and big tattoos, this makes for an impressive image. Quite upset that Melvin is devouring all of the Kool-Aid -- notice the choice of a child's drink -- Jody wants to say something, but criticizing Melvin does not seem like a promising idea.

Jody has ambitions. Figuring that humanity can be dichotomized into the buyers and the sellers, he wants to be one of the latter since those are the ones who become wealthy. In order to accomplish his version of the American dream, he steals women's clothes from a wholesaler and sells them in the neighborhood. With his sweet talking gift for gab, he's a natural for closing deals with the women, who don't care that their new clothes will be hot.

The film's recurring image is that of a grown man still in the womb. Shocking and mildly cute at first, this is a visual that rapidly loses its appeal.

Written and directed by John Singleton, who was responsible for the recent SHAFT remake as well as one of my personal favorites, ROSEWOOD, BABY BOY never rises above the level of a soap opera. Yes, it is a well made soap opera, but not one that we care much about. Then again, some people can't get enough of the TV soaps and dutifully set tapes to keep up with each day's shenanigans.

BABY BOY runs 2:09. It is rated R for strong sexuality, language, violence and some drug use and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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