An actor limited to stereotypical roles because of his ethnicity, dreams of making it big as a highly respected performer. As he makes his rounds, the film takes a satiric look at African American actors in Hollywood.
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James Earl Jones
Bobby Taylor wants to be a respected actor. From Sam Spade to Shakespeare to superheros, he can do it all. He just has to convince Hollywood that gangstas, slaves and "Eddie Murphy-types" aren't the sum of his talents. Written by
Renee Ann Byrd <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Bobby is first sitting down while he waits to read for the part of Jimmy at the beginning of the film, the head shot photo just behind him shows three women (with possibly a fourth, which is obscured by his head.) After the talk with the other actor sitting next to him (immediately after he tells him "Don't sell out, brother. Don't be a butler or a slave") the picture immediately changes to one of his grandmother, likely representing the sudden pull of his conscience in reading for this type of role. See more »
When the casting directors say they want the lead actor to act like Eddie Murphy, some of the shots are reversed. See more »
Don't get me wrong- I wanted to like this movie. Robert Townsend is thoroughly believable and sympathetic in the role, and I liked him quite a bit. He plays a hopeful, charismatic, good-natured man who's trying to land a role in a film and earn some self-respect.
The problem is, he has a very active fantasy life. What this means is that often, mid-scene, Townsend's character will think about something like a movie being discussed, or something he sees on TV. The movie then goes into his fantasy and enacts it for us, usually with him playing one of the characters in it. This wouldn't be so bad except for three main issues: The fantasies occur pretty often, usually about every ten or 15 minutes. They are usually silly and cliched, taking away from the more interesting and serious main storyline. The third and worst aspect of the fantasy gimmick is that they are just plain long. When Townsend overhears a conversation about black movie critics, for example, he thinks about it and we see a visualization of his thoughts, two black critics in a theater. You'd expect this to have a joke or two, then get back to Townsend. Instead, we watch a pretty unfunny scene that lasts more than five minutes as the two guys review fictitious movies such as an Amadeus ripoff and a pimp zombie film. It's pretty unfunny, lasts way too long and milks the scenes for cheap laughs that fall flat.
This happens way too much, and makes the movie seem awkward, as if there wasn't enough confidence in the basic premise and instead tried to pad the film with waste. It could just be my personal opinion, but I really didn't like any of the fantasies (especially a private detective one, which drags on for something like ten or 15 minutes). There was one exception, the first fantasy of the movie, where a fake school for black film stereotypes is advertised. This was the only dream sequence that was any good, because it takes very harsh jabs at black stereotypes. "I got to play 5 muggers, and a rapist!" Says one black hopeful. Another one is being taught how to walk "black" by a white instructor. "Call 1-800-555-Coon!" the ad flashes. It's good satire, and being a white man, I wasn't offended but instead laughed at how accurate this parody was of some people's attitudes towards black characters. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie falls pretty flat, due to the fact that none of the other fantasies had the wit of the first, or told it in such a sharp way. As a result we're left with a storyline that isn't focused on when it should be at least 90% of the film.
I liked Robert Townsend, and I felt for his plight. He wants badly to be an actor, make it in the business, and fulfill his dream. The problem is that the role he's hoping for is unfortunately quite racist in its portrayal of blacks as sniveling, cowardly, primitively speaking brutes who are engaged in a weapon fight. He must decide whether his dreams are worth sacrificing his dignity, whether this chance at stardom is worth the hard first stepping stone.
And had the movie spent more time on this, and much less on the wandering fantasies, it would have been much better. Townsend's character was charming and I would have preferred to see him just be himself instead of the fantasy characters, but since that's the case only about half the time, I rate this movie a 5- promising but disappointing.
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