Malibu's Most Wanted (2003)

Cynthia Fuchs

Like most such slapdashy juggling acts, Malibu's Most Wanted can't keep all its balls in the air.

Malibu's Most Wanted

Director: John Whitesell
Cast: Jamie Kennedy, Regina Hall, Taye Diggs, Anthony Anderson, Blair Underwood, Ryan O'Neal, Damien Dante Wayans, Snoop Dogg (voice for Ronnie Rizat)
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
First date: 2003
US Release Date: 2003-04-18

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.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.