They may come from different worlds socially and financially but working mom Alice (Alfre Woodard) and multi-millionaire Charlotte (Kathy Bates) have been best friends for decades. So when Alice’s social-climbing daughter Andrea (Sanaa Lathan) marries construction worker Chris (Rockmond Dunbar) Charlotte foots the bill for a wedding at her mansion. But Charlotte also wants to punish her conniving son William (Cole Hauser) for eloping with a weak-willed woman she abhors so she throws the wedding she once planned for William. Four years later Andrea and Chris are both working for Charlotte’s construction company which William runs. Chris dreams of starting his own business with Andrea’s brother-in-law Ben (Perry) but Andrea doesn’t think her blue-collar husband can make it on his own. Besides she’s too busy doing William’s bidding as he plots to wrestle control of the company away from Charlotte. But the tough-as-nails Charlotte isn’t going to down without a fight. If this sounds a bit soapy it is. In true The Bold and the Beautiful fashion there’s plenty of corporate backstabbing (unseen) bed-hopping sibling rivalries and life-changing revelations that threaten to tear apart Alice and Charlotte’s enmeshed families. It’s all very predictable stuff--you’ll have no trouble guessing who’s sick sleeping around or ready to crack--though the momentous third-act surprise forces Perry to tie up loose ends in a contrived and unsatisfying way. It’s safe to say The Family That Preys features the best cast Perry’s worked with. Regrettably he can’t break himself of his annoying tendency to compel his actors to underplay their roles. Even such old pros as Bates and Woodard seem oddly subdued. In Bates’ case that’s not too bad considering she gives Titanic-sized performances when left unchecked. But it comes as a welcome sight to see Bates break free of Perry’s bonds and get loud and lively during a Thelma & Louise-ish road trip. Woodard sadly really can’t do too much to make the saint-like Alice come across as anything but a stick in the mud. Lathan is so frosty that your body temperature drops 20 degrees whenever she and a barely audible Hauser cross paths. As for Prison Break’s Rockmond Dunbar it’s a shame that the sympathy he engenders for the unappreciated Chris evaporates the second he commits an act that’s not just inexcusable it’s unwarranted. Perry though has a hard time handling Taraji P Henson who is the closest to Madea that The Family That Preys has. She’s smart sassy and scrappy. Not that we miss Perry and his housedress. There’s no place for his pistol-packing big mama in The Family That Preys. In fact Madea’s comedic presence would have severely disrupted the serious tone that Perry maintains throughout The Family That Preys. What more can Perry say about the dynamics of the African American family—poor or affluent—in today’s America that he hasn’t already said? Ah yes Perry’s never before seen the need to tackle the issue of intolerance in a direct manner. There have been hints that some of his protagonists have suffered as a result of institutional racism but he’d rather spread the Lord’s word than yelling in the face of bigots. But early in The Family That Preys as Andrea questions Charlotte’s motives for throwing her a storybook wedding and accuses her mother of “playing Stepin Fetchit ” there’s optimism that Perry finally wants to do more than bash us over the head with the Bible. After all Perry’s sixth dramedy is the first to feature major white characters. Alas The Family That Preys turns out to be just like every Perry preachy production before it. Race doesn’t come into play as Perry offers familiar observations on dysfunctional family feuds in his customary but uninvolving point-and-shoot style. Maybe Perry simply feels now is the time to broaden his appeal by making Charlotte and her family white which is fine. And it’s his prerogative not to address racism or any other inflammatory social issue now or ever. Regardless as one of the leading voices in black cinema Perry has wasted a great opportunity to speak his mind about the state of race relations at a time when an African American finally has a legitimate chance of winning the U.S. presidency.
Martin Lawrence continues to attract extreme reactions from critics with
his Black Knight. Clearly, his detractors sat through the film
Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail figures
that "the writers must have handed in a rough draft of the script, with
lots of blank places between the dialogue where they wrote "Insert
really funny bit here." And then they went for a long lunch."
Vognar in the Dallas Morning News calls the movie, "a high
concept knocked down to its lowest possible intelligence level."
Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post calls it a "cheesy,
cheap-looking update of A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court.
Calling Lawrence "the Stepin Fetchit of our age," Foreman writes
that his character is "a shiftless, mugging, leering, inarticulate L.A.
black man who rolls his eyes and ambles around like one of the chimps in
Planet of the Apes." Had the film been co-produced by the Ku Klux
Klan, Foreman comments, "it could hardly be more repellently
On the other hand, Stephen Hunter of the Washington
Post calls the film "slight but highly enjoyable."
And you have to
wonder if Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times even saw the same
movie as some of his more censorious colleagues. Black Knight, he
writes, "is a rip-roaring time-travel comedy tailored beautifully to
Martin Lawrence's protean talent. It has more hilarious throwaway lines
than most comedies offer up as their best jokes, and it is consistently
inspired, energetic and, most important, light on its feet."
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- Jar Jar Binks, that Gungan cross between Eeyore and Bob Marley, upset a lot of people last summer.
It wasn't just that he was annoying (he was) or stupid (ditto), but that he was (or so some naysayers charged) an intergalactic Stepin Fetchit -- a thinly veiled black stereotype who played the goof while Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and all the other white guys saved the galaxy.
Well, guess who's coming to dinner?
Word comes today that George Lucas, creator and master of the "Star Wars" universe, has taken the complaints of ethnic exclusion in "Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace" to heart, and he's going to add some color to his (mostly) white-bread fantasy universe.
According to a report in today's Daily Variety, Lucas -- currently at work on the script for "Episode 2," the second installment in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy -- is taking pains to make sure the next film is stocked with more racially diverse (read: politically correct) characters.
Even though Lucas's screenplay isn't finished, Lucasfilm Ltd. casting director Robin Gurland has already met with major talent agencies to mine actors for several roles, including an American Indian with "a forceful, spiritual nature," an Indian and/or Hispanic character and an Asian "possibly trained in martial arts," according to the trade newspaper.
Lucasfilm reps didn't immediately return Hollywood.com's request for a comment. But the report suggests quite a turnabout for Lucasfilm, which initially rejected the charges of racism that spread like wildfire over the Internet and in the media when the film was released in May.
"Nothing in 'Star Wars' was racially motivated," Lucasfilm's Lynne Hale told the Dallas Morning News last year. "'Star Wars' is a fantasy movie. I really do think to dissect this movie as if it had a direct reference to the world today is absurd."
As for the criticism that Jar Jar is a grating presence, Hale said: "It's a children's movie. Kids love him. He's so childish."
While the "yousa"-spewing Jar Jar was the butt of most of the PC criticism directed at "Phantom Menace," other "Phantom Menace" animated characters also were taken to task for perceived nods to Italian, Middle Eastern and Asian stereotypes.
Similar gripes were raised after the release of the original "Star Wars" in 1977. That film was populated with white heroes such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. When the sequel "The Empire Strikes Back" came out in 1980, the situation was remedied somewhat with Billy Dee Williams cast as Lando Calrissian.
By the way, Lucas has already said that Jar Jar will be back in "Episode 2."
DARTH MAUL OUTDUELS DINOS: The hubbub over sci-fi stereotypes, meanwhile, certainly didn't dissuade moviegoers from seeing "The Phantom Menace," either here or abroad. In fact, the film has now officially usurped "Jurassic Park" to become the world's second-highest-grossing movie of all time, trailing only "Titanic."
Though it's still oceans away from catching "Titanic," which has grossed $1.8 billion, "The Phantom Menace" seized the No. 2 all-time rank by taking in $922.5 million (and counting). It has now surpassed an impressive list of box-office champs. "Jurassic Park," down to No. 3 on the all-time list, has grossed $920 million; "Independence Day" is the fourth-highest-grossing film with $811.4 million; and the original "Star Wars" remains the fifth-highest-grossing movie (thanks in large part to its 1997 re-release) with $775.8 million.