[16 April 2003]
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
With Malibu’s Most Wanted, aspiring homeboy B-Rad Gluckman (Jamie Kennedy) takes a small step from tv’s The Jamie Kennedy Experiment to the wholly pedestrian movie. That he initiates this endeavor accompanied by the Neptunes’ “Provider” suggests one (or maybe two) of two things: the film’s soundtrack producer is cleverer than the film; and Pharrell will sell anything to anyone, as per the lyrics of the song. Irony: it’s a terrible thing.
B-Rad introduces himself in voiceover, noting that he grew up “in the streets” and holds it down for the Bu, as the camera swoops over his swank hood, revealing the local hardships: “bag ladies” (shoppers) and the locals all “strapped with a nine” (golfers). This played out idea—white boy acts “black”—is the film’s one joke, which it proceeds to repeat for 86 minutes.
B-Rad, the self-proclaimed “Shiz-nit,” hangs with his crew (assorted kids with attitude: Hadji [Kal Penn], Mocha [Nick Swardson], and Amazonian white girl Monster) at the Malibrew coffee shop and the scented candles shop down at the mall (screeches B-Rad, “Do you validate pawkin’?”). He’s also perpetually mad at his neglectful parents, Bill and Bess (Ryan O’Neal and Bo Derek). Now that dad’s running for California governor, B-Rad decides to make his move for attention, crashing a press conference with a rap routine that includes hoochies and bad rhymes. Here, Tom (Blair Underwood, god help him) announces that the boy will destroy the campaign if they don’t “shut this down.”
Written by Swardson, adjusted by Fax Bahr and Adam Small (the team responsible for a couple of Pauly Shore movies, including The Son-In-Law, as well as JKX), the script has nowhere—and I mean nowhere—to go. Tom hires actors Sean (Taye Diggs) and P.J. (Anthony Anderson) to play gangstas, kidnap and rough up B-Rad, and “scare the black out of him.” Hailing from Julliard and Pasadena (one rehearsal session: “Your alma mater is wack!”), the actors lose their Boyz II Mennish shorts and sweaters, and take on doo-rags, baggy jeans, and cornrows. They enlist the help of P.J.‘s cousin Shondra (Regina Hall), aspiring beautician and ostensible conscience in this mess. But she pays dearly for her supposed wisdom, suffering as the designated love interest for Idiot White Boy. That is, she’s the only one who appreciates him for “who he is,” not expecting that he act white or black or someway else.
Sean and P.J. throw signs and glare a bit, keeping B-Rad locked in Shondra’s plush-pillowed bedroom while they conjure ways to frighten him. When they do head out—to a Korean-owned convenience store as in Menace II Society or to a rap battle as in 8 Mile—the film only feels increasingly forlorn. Goodness knows these scenes invite satire, but there’s no energy in the efforts here. So, when B-Rad is confronted, at da club, by Shondra’s tough-talking ex, Tec (Damien Dante Wayans), it goes like you expect: Shondra resists Tec’s advances, White Boy fronts, Banger pushes up on him, White Boy whines, “Don’t be hatin’!”
As it revisits Steve Martin’s club intrusion in Bringing Down the House, the scene is yet another in the increasingly tiresome line of white-folks-acting-black gags (including not one but two uses of “Play That Funky Music White Boy”). To its (meager) credit, Malibu’s Most Wanted does observe that gangsta-ism is as much a performance for black kids as for white ones, and even goes the next step, by drawing brief attention to the question of who gets to own, and so, profit from, this particular performance. But such insights are more hinted at than developed. Which may be just as well, as you wouldn’t want to be spending any extra minutes with this crew.
The film spends considerable time ridiculing B-Rad’s ignorance, as in the scene where he “bonds” with the apparently infinitely patient Gladys, a black maid who cuts his meat while she encourages him to “Keep it real”; or shoots off his automatic weapons from atop a car, roaring, “King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me!” This show earns him the nickname White Kong, but here and elsewhere, the movie seems to miss the point that B-Rad’s no rebel: his antics are just another version of what his dad and others have always done—stealing and posing.
Like most such slapdashy juggling acts, Malibu’s Most Wanted can’t keep all its balls (broad comedy, corny romance, vague social observations) in the air, and soon, everyone involved is looking exasperated or exhausted. The sole survivor may be Snoop, who doesn’t actually appear on screen, but only lends his voice to Ronnie Rizat, a rat who visits B-Rad while in something like a delirium. Though he’s recently been dodging bullets (see
), the newly sober Snoop has earned much love for popularizing the fo-shizzle speak that B-Rad so eagerly rehearses. Perhaps this performance is best understood as filling time while waiting for the return of MTV’s Doggy Fizzle Televizzle.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/malibus-most-wanted/