After FBI agents Kevin (Shawn Wayans) and Marcus (Marlon Wayans) Copeland botch an undercover sting operation at a local NYC grocer they get relegated to acting as chauffeurs on their next assignment. The mission? To pick up heiresses Tiffany and Brittany Wilson from the airport and drive them to the Hamptons where the bureau will tail the socialites who are believed to be targets in a kidnapping plot. But it seems these two bungling agents can't even get this simple task right and they end up flipping the SUV over. Tiffany and Brittany refuse to go to the Hamptons with their faces scraped up and decide to recover in Manhattan. To avoid getting chewed out by the bureau chief yet again Marcus and Kevin decide to impersonate the heiresses and foil the kidnapping plot themselves. They call an in FBI buddy who happens to be a makeup genius and voila: the White Chicks are born. And with everyone getting collagen lip-enhancements the Copeland brothers are easily able to pass themselves off as the Wilson sisters. Don't worry too much about the plot; you'll be so fascinated by the Wayans in whiteface that you'll forget all about it.
Hilarious and rarely stepping out of character Shawn Wayan makes it easy to believe he's a white socialite clarifying his masculine mishaps such as chasing down a mugger with quips like "It's not just a bag it's Prada." And although both the Wayans make impressive white chicks Shawn definitely has the advantage in the physical department. As Brittany in the beach scene Shawn looks stunning in a mint-green sarong and a matching Pucci-inspired bathing suit and doesn't like any more manly than say Madonna. It's not surprising considering both actors dropped about 30 pounds each for the parts. Marlon Wayans meanwhile plays the role of Tiffany they more demure of the two sisters. Although the Wayans do resort to some hackneyed gender bending gags including a predictable date with an oversexed clueless male and the perils of a big chest the characters remain endearing because of the clichéd yarn they avoid. Although there is an all-girl sleepover party for example Brittany and Tiffany interact with their female friends in a very sweet manner rather than plot to get them out of their nighties and into the sack.
With too many writers to rattle off it's no wonder White Chicks' plot is so spotty. Getting top writing credits is director Keenen Ivory Wayans who manages to deliver a pretty hilarious comedy despite its really stupid storyline. One of the main reasons this film works is seeing the Wayans brothers in their special effects makeup which was done by Keith Vanderlaan and Greg Cannom. But unlike Cannom's work on Mrs. Doubtfire the Wayans feminine alter egos look womanly rather than drag queeny with their angular features molded into surprisingly soft ones. Don't be surprised if you find yourself overly preoccupied by the Wayans' appearance constantly looking for telltale signs of where the masks end or where the makeup doesn't blend right. There are also a few really funny scenes to distract you from the Wayans' faces including a club dance-off to Run D.M.C.'s "It's Tricky" and a mother-dissing match ("Oh my God you wanna talk about mothers?" Shawn exclaims.) But once the plot is resolved and the stars are back in their own skin moviegoers will snap back into the moment and realize "Oh right--there was a story behind all of this."
The vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Stuart Townsend) wakes from a hundred-year sleep to the rock 'n' roll present day and likes what he sees and hears. Tired of the vampire's solitary life he becomes the frontman for an unknown rock band and transforms it into the latest greatest thing gaining the adulation of millions. He also decides to disregard the unspoken rule that vampires must hide away from the rest of world and writes songs encoded with specifics of the secret life of vampires. As expected Lestat's lyrics draw the attention of both the bloodsuckers who want to destroy him and the human vampire scholars (called the Talamasca) who want to study him. One young Talamascan student Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau) becomes obsessed with Lestat after reading his journal from the 1800s. She learns that Lestat had a brief encounter with Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) the most ancient and dangerous vampire to ever exist and the mother of all who walk the Earth in search of blood. He gets his chance to meet Akasha again when his music awakens her from an ancient slumber. She rises and seeks out Lestat to become her king and join her in ruling the world.
The film truly belongs to Townsend and fans of the Anne Rice's novels will be happy to know he completely embodies the charismatic vampire Lestat. The little-known Irish actor who starred in last year's indie About Adam with Kate Hudson rules the screen whenever he is on it and luckily he's on it quite a lot. He's especially powerful when he is in rock star mode. Although Moreau's Jesse is fairly one dimensional she comes alive in her scenes with Townsend. Let's hope they keep asking him to play Lestat (when and if they make any more films from Rice's vampire novels) and next time give him an actress he can have some real chemistry with. The late R&B singer Aaliyah made her second film appearance in Damned as the queen. Even though she is only in the film a short time she possesses a certain charm as the ancient and evil Queen Akasha and makes a great first impression by destroying a vampire coven. Yet her acting skills are just not up to par with the rest of the cast including the charismatic Vincent Perez as the vampire Marius and Lena Olin as the kind-hearted vampire Maharet.
Damned was set to be released in the fall of last year but word of mouth had the film destined for the video shelf before it even made it to the big screen. Then tragedy struck and as the news of Aaliyah's untimely death echoed throughout the world of entertainment Warner Bros. wisely decided to hold onto it and release it in theaters at a more favorable time knowing there would be an audience who'd want to see the singer's last film. Yet for all the bad press surrounding it Damned actually pleasantly surprises you due largely in part to Townsend's mesmerizing performance. Michael Rymer's direction is not a masterpiece of filmmaking by any stretch of the imagination but it has a certain MTV quality about it which makes it appealing. That same quality however also makes it too slick glossing over the meatier parts of Rice's novel making the dialogue and action trite and sometimes downright silly. Come to think of it the 1994 Interview With the Vampire also suffered from the same thing. Maybe translating Rice's words is harder than it looks.