A talented cast headed by the rap duo Kid 'N Play (Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin) inject enough energy, charm and humor into ''House Party 2: The Pajama Jam!'' to insure a respectable showing at the boxoffice.
However, producers Doug McHenry
and George Jackson have made an unimpressive directing debut, hobbling the film with uncertain comic rhythms, poorly shot musical numbers, and wanly realized supporting characters. Popular appeal will undoubtedly be held down as a result.
Largely a campus musical, the film focuses on the efforts of Kid (Reid) to enroll in college and survive his first rocky days there despite pleas from Play (Martin) to give up education for a music career. Play is conned by a beautiful music industry hustler (Iman) into lending her Kid's misplaced tuition check, and when she disappears, Kid, whose campus kitchen job cannot cover his expenses, is on the verge of being expelled.
The lead pair, along with their DJ Bilal (Martin Lawrence, the most consistently funny performer in the film) finally throw a huge, secret pajama party to raise the money.
This straightforward progression is weighted down by a number of slow-moving subplots. Kid's girlfriend Sidney (Tisha Campbell
), also at school, comes under the influence of a feminist roommate, Zora (Queen Latifah
), and, due to an implausible misunderstanding, breaks up with Kid.
Latifah, who makes only one brief rap, declaims a few feminist bromides, but these are undermined by the other moments in the film featuring salacious shots of female body parts. Both are in marked contrast to the easygoing, innocent sexuality of the first ''House Party.''
Similarly, the satirical jabs at black lifestyles and mores are broader and more stereotypical than in the original, and, like the sex, offset by somber and self-conscious preaching, this time by Georg Stanford Brown
as an African-American studies teacher.
In general, the comedy scenes lack structure, a problem even worse in the musical sequences, when dancers' legs and arms are routinely cut off at the frame lines.
The trio of bullies played by performers Full Force (Paul Anthony George, Brian George, Lucien George) struggle but fail to reprise their comic impact, though newcomer Kamron, of the group Young Black Teenagers, adds some comic dash as Kid's roommate, a white kid who talks, walks and raps black. William Schallert
, as a weirdo dean, contributes some light moments.
Despite the problems, Reid and Martin still maintain their appeal. Reid, in particular, is a sharp and responsive comic actor with an extraordinarily likeable personality. As long as one of them is onscreen, there is always something entertaining to watch.
The soundtrack, too, is sure to have wide appeal, the hip-hop songs tinged with just enough pop feel to cross over -- probably more than the film itself.
HOUSE PARTY 2: THE PAJAMA JAM!
New Line Cinema
A Jackson/McHenry Production
Producers-directors Doug McHenry
, George Jackson
Writers Rusty Cundieff
, Daryl G. Nickens
Based on characters created by Reginald Hudlin
Director of photography Francis Kenny
Editor Joel Goodman
Production designer Michelle Minch
Music Vassal Benford
Kid Christopher Reid
Play Christopher Martin
Bilal Martin Lawrence
Sidney Tisha Campbell
Zora Queen Latifah
Professor Sinclair Georg Stanford Brown
Running time -- 95 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
(c) The Hollywood Reporter