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Review by Dustin Putman
2½ stars out of 4
I will be the first to admit "Marci X" has its share of problemsthe
characterizations are spotty and too often oversimplified, while the
uneven scene transitions signal post-production tinkeringbut there
is no excuse for how Paramount Pictures has handled its release. Coming
out at the end of August with a nearly nonexistent marketing campaign
(along with the beginning of January, this is the weekend studios
release projects they have no faith in), the picture was not screened
for critics and its poster might as well have been shipped to every
theater across the U.S. with "destined to be a box-office dud" spray-painted
on them. Walking into "Marci X," audience members would have to live
under rocks to expect anything other than a total failure. Walking
out of "Marci X," I would dare anyone to honestly say that, yes, it
was just as creatively bankrupt as they had expected.
Marci Feld (Lisa Kurdrow) is the pampered grown daughter of Ben Feld
(Richard Benjamin), the mega-wealthy owner of a record label who has
just come under fire by Senator Mary Ellen Spinkle (Christine Baranski)
for releasing the latest album of raunchy rapper Dr. $ (Damon Wayans).
When Ben suddenly takes ill and his company is threatened with bankruptcy,
Marci decides to take it upon herself to persuade Dr. $ to make an
official statement apologizing for his songs' lyrics and, thus, saving
the record label. The results of such are not quite as Marci expects,
especially after she finds herself falling in love with the misunde rstood rapper.
An unexpectedly sharp-nailed satire about the distinct barrier between
races, as well as the media's and politician's role in censorship,
"Marci X" garners occasional big laughs from just how far it will
go in making these statements. The screenplay's comedy, by Paul Rudnick
(2000's "Isn't She Great?"), is fast and witty and biting, landing
just on the good side of bad taste. In one uproarious moment, Marci
hosts a benefit for children who have lost all feeling in their arms,
a very real affliction that is more than proven when two kids on display
are poked with forks. In another scene, Dr. $ skews a public service
announcement he is talked into doing with clearly gay boy band, "Boys
R Us," in a most clever way. Additionally, Marci's impromptu rap about
her purse at a Dr. $ concertset to the beat of Madonna's "Vogue"is
ten times as entertaining and creative as Eminem's similar sc ene in 2002's "8 Mile."
Since her superlative, Oscar-worthy performance in 1998's "The Opposite
of Sex," strong feature film work has eluded "Friends" actress Lisa
Kudrow (1999's "Analyze This," 2000's "Lucky Numbers," 2002's "Analyze
That"). Too often wasted on the big screen, Kudrow has finally been
given a lead role that amicably showcases her talents both as a comedian
and a serious actress. As Marci, who learns that there is more to
life than clinging to the heels of her father, Kudrow is spunky, likable,
andin one particular scene she plays with disheveled hair and no make-up
except smeared mascarahas never been more beautiful.
More surprising, however, is the actual chemistry she shares with
Damon Wayans (2000's "Bamboozled"). An odd-couple pairing if there
ever was one, but Wayans sells it by playing Dr. $ as a hardcore rapper
with a heart of gold who takes a liking to Marci's inner funk. All
of their scenes together feel genuine rather than pre-fabricated.
Unfortunately, it is their relationship that seems to have taken the
hardest hit with the cutting room floor when it should have been the
centerpiece. In a welcome supporting role, Christine Baranski (2002's
"Chicago") is a comic delight in her portrayal of a stuck-up right-wing
senator who refuses to admit she likes Dr. $'s musical stylings.
No matter what its detractors may think, "Marci X" is a good film,
and one that could have been great had director Richard Benjamin taken
his satirical targets a little further and allowed his characters
more space to develop and breathe. There is something of a missed
opportunity in "Marci X" since the comedy that does work is original,
zippy, and ballsy. At the same time, the movie is funny, and this
is Lisa Kudrow's strongest feature work in five years. After all,
there is more to Kudrowand "Marci X" proves itthan Phoebe Buffay.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman