Bamboozled is Spike Lee’s newest movie since Summer of Sam, focusing on Harvard-educated black man Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) who has removed all the black stereotype from himself. (More or less becoming a white stereotype with a different skin color.)He’s a writer at an NY TV station (“Do you know what UPN stands for? You pick a nigga!”), but his work isn’t catching on. In a desperate attempt break his contract and get fired, he makes a satire of the loud, obnoxious, lazy black stereotype by reviving the minstrel show. He gets two street performers, Manray (Savion Glover) and Womack (Tommy Davidson) and turns them into Mantan and Sleep ‘N Eat (“Aren’t people going to be offended by that?”). Instead of it backfiring like Dela hoped, the new Black-Face show (“Black actors with blacker faces”) catches on wildly. Despite all the TV satires we’ve seen lately (Pleasantville, The Truman Show, Edtv) Lee increases the racial element. However, he still concedes with some elements of ambiguity. Instead of fully developing one of the storylines, he divides them up several ways which causes the individual parts to keep jumping in front of the others. The rappers’ storyline fueled some serious ideas, but by the end (an overlong two-and-a-half hours) it’s lost along the muddle. Because Lee is so quick to jump around, it leaves a lot uneven. He wants to parody (“Fuck Spike Lee, like Quentin Tarantino said, ‘nigga’s just a word’”), but he also wants to be incisive. There’s a lot of information in here, but in the end Bamboozled is like an essay you get back where the teacher says that the thesis is unclear. Certain sections are highlighted for either being awkward, or noted for being good support. I would call Bamboozled a work-in-progress; Lee was just too rushed to get this out, but therefore his true intentions are left undeveloped and unsupported. My expectations were up for this, maybe I was expecting something a little deeper. Aside from the mistake of shooting this with a digital camera — which made it look extremely ugly, with drained color and an overly grainy quality — I just wish it would have focused more on its assets rather than being so scatological and discursive.
With Michael Rapaport and Jada Pinkett-Smith.[Redeemable.]