Projections - Movie Reviews

Bamboozled Bamboozled

A satire of racism is brought to the big screen by Spike Lee who targets blacks and whites in the harshly humorous, Bamboozled.  Politically incorrect prejudicial mockery is present again as the controversial director uses black actors as "Alabama Porch Monkeys" in a cable production entitled "Mantan - The New Millennium Minstrel Show" a black face variety show set in a watermelon patch on a plantation.

Lee quotes his own Malcolm X as that seminal black leader said "You Have Been Bamboozled."  Here, the TV executives are targeted, black and white, in his ambitious, yet puzzling new film.  To them, it's all about distorting the black image with whites enjoying mindless caricatures and blacks happy to dumb down for fame and fortune.  While one can feel Lee's seething attitude about the minstrel type humor pervading TV and movies with the Wayans brothers, Martin Lawrence, and Eddie Murphy, the use of black face comes across as disturbing rather than incisive.

The man behind "Mantan" is a mockingly black executive at a network in need of a hit.  The Harvard grad with an elite accent is Damon Wayans.

His casting of a homeless dancer, Savion Glover's Mantan and his friend Sleep N' Eat, Tommy Davidson of Booty Call, surprises his boss with an instant hit and Michael Rapaport's brainwashed Dunwitty feels black America is in his grasp.

But Wayans' Pierre and his well spoken weary assistant Sloan (Jada Pinkett Smith) are offended by his new show.  Though he dreams of accolades, he doesn't like what the media and public call trendy.  Subsequently, Bamboozled goes off its main theme into melodrama and violence as the TV program makes things difficult for Sloan who gets involved with Mantan, and feels the heat from her politically terrorizing rapping brother (Mos Def).

The insistent director of The Original Kings of Comedy and Do the Right Thing has found a provocative means to contrast black and white culture.  But Wayans' demeanor of wit and self doubt doesn't stand out among the uneasiness brought back by the old minstrel stereotype embodied with moving self disappointment by Glover's homeless street performer.


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