"Hey Hey Hey--it's Fat Albert!" From the very first introductory line--voiced by Albert (Kenan Thompson) himself--you cringe just a little. It's like watching a good friend attempt a tough impersonation you hope he can pull off. The story hews close to what the cartoon
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was always all about--a goofy gaggle of African-American kids making the best of growing up in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia. No matter what the trouble--runaways drug use juvenile delinquency--they managed to find a way to solve everyone's problems and bookend each episode with the contagiously upbeat "Na na na--gonna have a good time! Hey hey hey!" The same goes here--only in a modern twist the problem to solve happens to be in the "real world." Doris (Kyla Pratt) a shy and lonely teenager has a rough day at school where she learned she wasn't invited to a big party. She comes home to watch Fat Albert on TV Land and a stray teardrop hits the remote control creating a magical portal through which the animated Fat Albert and gang decide to jump. Scaring the heck out of the bewildered Doris the guys stumble out of the television set and take to their realistic surroundings and mission quite quickly. In short order they set about trying to find Doris some new friends much to her embarrassed chagrin and along the way they try to make sense of modern day life with its perplexing cell phones pull-top cans and rap music. Yet the more time they spend in the real world the more they fade away their clothes becomes more washed out and eventually they even seem transparent.
Thompson (Saturday Night Live) does as good a job as could be expected embodying a classic cartoon character that has been etched into our minds for decades known mainly for the booming voice pounding footsteps and wide red-shirted girth. He also has the unenviable task of imbuing the character within the actual storyline (not to mention sharing screen time with Bill Cosby himself who quickly but effectively intones the classic phrase in a standout cameo). In the real world Fat Albert falls in love; not with Doris the girl he's helping but her older sister Lauri (Dania Ramirez) who in turn has taken a shine to this selfless big lug. Thompson is also required to sing and dance and try his hand at rap (but we'll skip the part in which Albert races a malevolent track star who's jealous of his appeal--it's so out of place and unnecessarily fake-looking that it's best forgotten). Kyla Pratt also does a good job holding her own playing the young Doris as one part hopeful one part incredulous. The rest of the "Cosby kids" blend in with one another if not for their single quirk or two: Jermaine Williams as the unintelligible Mushmouth; Keith D. Robinson as Bill the level-headed one (essentially the young Bill Cosby); Alphonso McAuley as Bucky with his protruding big teeth; Aaron A. Frazier as Old Weird Harold tall with the big 'fro and Marques B. Houston; as Dumb Donald most of his face covered by a pulled down ski-cap with eye holes.
Already a lot has been said about Fat Albert's sitcom-like feel which may in fact be appropriate given the source material but meandering between the two plotlines the story nevertheless feels as padded as Thompson's suit. Director Joel Zwick's (My Big
Fat Greek Wedding) staging style and attitude are clearly geared toward kids who likely won't miss the lack of real wit in the bickering exchanges between the gang but who may not get the references including the opening animation styled just like the mid-1970s show. This movie's target audience has barely even heard of Theo and Rudy Huxtable let alone Weird Harold Mush Mouth and Dumb Donald. In the cartoon Albert and the Cosby kids populated an urban world of fire hydrants streetlamps and garbage dumps that wasn't without a certain charm. The problem is that charm of the original doesn't work within the context of life today. Just slapping this colorful cast of characters into music video dance scenes doesn't do the job. One notable exception to the often unengaging quality of the movie is a brief visit Fat Albert makes to the real Bill Cosby. The legendary performer softens his curmudgeonly ways and puts forth a possible explanation for Albert's manifestation in reality tying it in with the character's origin in his own head. It's an interesting tidbit with a small payoff at the end.
Top Story: Celebs Roast MTV's Carson Daly
Madonna, Britney Spears, Nelly, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Adam Carolla are just some of the celebs who took part in Saturday night's inaugural MTV Bash, the comedy roast of the network's Carson Daly. But it seems some of the jokes had more sting than humor. According to The Hollywood Reporter, host Jeff Ross took advantage of the show's commercial breaks to apologize to Nicky Hilton for saying that it's ironic "two sluts are named after a cheap hotel." Sarah Silverman was also spotted hugging Jennifer Love Hewitt an advertising break after blurting out that the actress really can't sing. But it was Daly that had the most wounds to lick, with celebrity friends taking jabs at everything from his relationships with actresses Hewitt and Tara Reid. "I thought I was a nice guy, but I've come to realize I'm just a big douchebag," the newly roasted Daly said. "Thank you so much for being here, let's do it next year ... to somebody else." The event will be broadcast on MTV July 13.
Putin Welcomes Seagal to Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed action star Steven Seagal to his country residence outside Moscow, The Associated Press reports. Seagal, along with Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida and France's Fanny Ardant were in Moscow for the Moscow International Film Festival, which ends Sunday. Putin, a staunch Judo enthusiast, thanked the stars on behalf of Russian fans for taking part in the festival and said he hoped they would return despite this year's relatively cool Moscow summer.
Scott Foley Returns to Scrubs
Actor Scott Foley, who recently starred in the now defunct NBC comedy A.U.S.A., is set to reprise his role on the network's Scrubs, Reuters reports. Foley appeared on the hit medical sitcom in its freshman season as an insecure patient who developed a crush on his doctor, Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke). Foley will guest star in six episodes this fall, beginning with the show's season premiere.
ABC Pulls Plug on Port Charles
ABC is canceling its daytime soap opera Port Charles as of Oct. 3. Reuters reports that although the show performed adequately in the ratings, it has been hampered by erratic scheduling on ABC affiliate stations because of its half-hour format. Port Charles, a spin-off of the network's long-running General Hospital, debuted in June 1997. ABC Daytime president Brian Frons said the network expects to place actors and crew throughout other ABC Daytime shows.
DMX Arrested in St. Kitts
Rapper DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was arrested in Basseterre, St. Kitts, in the Caribbean Saturday for using profanity during a concert the night before, the AP reports. DMX was released on bail of $376 and left the island on Saturday afternoon, but pledged to return for his court date Monday. Organizers for St. Kitts' annual music festival said they warned DMX not to use obscenities on stage and added that the rapper signed a contract not to use indecent language on stage. DMX, however, said he never signed such a contract and would not have performed had he been forced to censor his language.
Lenny Kravitz Forms Record Label
Singer Lenny Kravitz, who remains signed to Virgin Records as a recording artist and will release a new studio album, has formed a company called Roxie Records whose distribution will go through Warner Bros. According to Billboard.com, the first signees include vocalist Dan Dyer, who is at work with engineer Matt Knobel on his debut album. Knobel worked behind the scenes on Kravitz's 2002 album, Lenny. The newly formed label is named for his late mother, actress Roxie Roker.
Clear Channel Launches Music Mag
Radio and concert giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. is launching an ad-sponsored magazine for the summer concert season. According to Reuters, Music Guide Live!, which will feature stories on recording artists, music news, touring schedules and other local information, will make its debut over the weekend at a few concerts and ultimately be distributed in more than 30 markets during the summer at Clear Channel radio station events. The company has also discussed the possibility of eventually distributing the publication through music retailers.
Role Call: Zwick Helms Fat Albert, Dangerfield Goes Back to School
My Big Fat Greek Wedding director Joel Zwick is in talks to take the helm of the live-action feature Fat Albert for 20th Century Fox. The project is based on Bill Cosby's famed '70s CBS cartoon Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. The original draft of the screenplay was written by Charles Kipps and Cosby, who will also serve as the film's producer ... Comedian Rodney Dangerfield will remake the 1986 hit comedy Back to School for MGM. Dangerfield, who retained some rights to the movie when MGM bought the film library the original distributor, Orion Pictures, will not reprise his starring role in the comedy.