Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
Mere days after describing "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" as "a
stupid comedy made smart" through its witty, enthusiastic hold on
the material and sterling comic timing, along comes "White Chicks,"
a broad comedy that is even more stupid but not nearly as smart. Directed
by Keenen Ivory Wayans, the film is too reminiscent of 2001's "Scary
Movie 2" (Wayans' last feature) for comfort; yes, there are some big—even
giant—laugh-inducing moments, but they are threaded unevenly through
a series of barely cohesive set-pieces posing as a narrative. The
plot and most of the characters' actions, as is, are simply incomprehensible.
This is one ribald cinematic effort that could have used another extensive rewrite.
In order to prove to their boss (Frankie Faison) and coworkers that
they have what it takes in the line of duty, African-American FBI
agents Marcus (Marlon Wayans) and Kevin Copeland (Shawn Wayans) go
undercover—with the help of a lot of latex and make-up—as white hotel
heiresses and Hamptons socialites Tiffany (Anne Dudek) and Brittany
Wilson (Maitland Ward). Their goal: to investigate a kidnapping plot
that they suspect is about to go down. In the process, Marcus and
Kevin must convince Tiffany and Brittany's friends, Karen (Busy Philipps),
Tori (Jessica Cauffiel), and Lisa (Jennifer Carpenter), of their false
identities, while keeping the rest of the media and high society at
bay. And as Kevin (out of costume) meets and falls for news reporter
Denise Porter (Rochelle Aytes) even as he deceives her, the married
Marcus (as Tiffany) must fend off the relentless advances of bodybuilder
Darnell (Terry Crews).
"White Chicks" takes the concept of 2002's much better "Sorority Boys"—that
of men posing as women—and ups the ante by having black men playing
white women. Such a premise is exciting at the onset because of its
infinite comedic possibilities and, indeed, there are a handful of
wild, laugh-out-loud moments. An ongoing joke concerning Vanessa Carlton's
"1000 Miles" is milked for all its worth, while a hip-hop dance-off
between Marcus and Kevin (as Tiffany and Brittany) and their stuck-up
rivals, Heather (Jaime King) and Megan Vandergeld (Brittany Daniel),
is humorously inspired. In addition, a date that Marcus is forced
to go out on with Darnell is memorably outrageous, and in a good way.
Otherwise, director Keenen Ivory Wayans relies heavily on the part-bizarre/part-hilarious
visual of this cross-dressing pair to garner the majority of laughs.
He succeeds some of the time because Marlon and Shawn Wayans (paired
up again after 2000's "Scary Movie" and 2001' "Scary Movie 2") are
such uninhibited performers and their transformation into white women
is realistically pulled off through some amazing make-up work. The
sight of them is funny in and of itself, at first, but when the novelty
of that wears off there is little left to work with.
The screenplay, credited to a ridiculous six writers (including the
three Wayans'), is akin to a terrible car wreck, mangled by clumsy
characterizations and poor plotting. Until Marcus and Kevin go undercover
as Tiffany and Brittany, the pace is stagnant and the laughs are nonexistent.
The ensemble, which includes no less than sixteen major players, is
overstuffed, with no one (not even Marcus and Kevin) given enough
time to develop into clearly defined individuals. This glaring problem
is cause for embarrassment when the tone turns serious in the third-act
and wants us to actually care about these people and the fate of certain
relationships. As the music score swells, orchestrated by Teddy Castellucci
(2004's "50 First Dates") with such maudlin strings that the scenes
unintentionally come off as dramatic parodies, the film becomes a
laughing-stock for all the wrong reasons. And as for the "plot" (a
term to be used lightly with this movie), anyone who can follow the
whole kidnapping scenario and the motives behind it deserve awards
as they leave the theater.
In terms of performance and laughs, "White Chicks" is adequate. All
of the actors do what is required of them in one-dimensional roles
that do them no favors in return, while there is enough to tickle
the viewer's funny bone so that the experience isn't a painful one.
Still, with about five different sequences hinging on fart jokes alone
and no sense to be made of the plot specifics, it is safe to say the
lazy writing doesn't even begin to approach what might have been with
such a creative premise. Unlike the current "Dodgeball," which was
ambitious enough to be a sharp satire besides a broad physical comedy,
"White Chicks" has a witless one-track mind. Director Keenen Ivory
Wayans and actor brothers Shawn and Marlon were so enamored with the
idea behind their film that they neglected to create anything worthwhile around it.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman