by Greg Muskewitz
“Kingdom Come” is a gigantic mess, a clutter of nothing, a constipation of banal ideas gone even more astray. It’s another one of those stage adaptations, remaining coarse, stiff and preachy (in more than one respect), and although it is well intentioned, the actual level of effectiveness doesn’t even cast the faintest of shadows.“Kingdom Come” (which was originally going to be the name of the Thomas Hardy-adaptation of “The Mayor of Casterbridge,” now know as “The Claim”) is another movie, like “The Brothers,” assembled by an all-black crew. (Even one of the actresses from “The Brothers,” –Tamala Jones, shows up.) But the approach is wrong, again, and though the director Doug McHenry doesn’t get racist here, he makes a lot of the same mistakes of playing into the racial stereotypes of African-Americans. Either the movies that black directors and black actors want to make, aren’t being sanctioned, or they are not using an judgment on selection, just trying to make what’s available, because I can hardly imagine a project like “Kingdom Come” wanting to be done, but yet it still attracts some of the bigger and more well-known faces and names amongst the black community.
"It's a visit to hell."
The baked-over story we get here is about one big dysfunctional family that, no matter what combination, never gets along. The reason for the family’s summoning at the current time is because Raynelle Slocumb’s (Whoopi Goldberg) “mean and surly” husband has finally passed away. Funeral time means getting everyone together for one crisis after another –viewed upon as a drama with comedic moments—and the unsurprising understanding that all the characters supposedly achieve with one another by the end.
Not only is all this fighting tooth-and-nail style not funny to watch, but it’s annoying, frustrating and stupid. None of the characters in the movie have any real characteristics or dimensions of a real person, but rather the obstreperous demeanor that is so constantly offensive when viewed by the audience this is directed to. But the reaction is a hypocritical one; when a black person acts boisterous and obscene in a movie made by anyone outside of a black director, it’s found to be offensive and in bad taste. Yet when the black filmmakers decide to do it too, the people find it funny and it doesn’t bother them. The way I see it, either way you go, it’s unacceptable because it is not presenting them as how they are: normal human-beings.
“Kingdom Come” is unimaginatively written and directed, relying on the names of the actors to keep you in your seat. The movie is outrageously boring, preaching it’s repetitive message over and over through the likeliness of dull examples and silly situations. The causes for all of the dysfunction are cheap and shallowly assembled, and so then when this event of death perpetuates it even further, it makes it that much more unbelievable and unrealistic. The script (by playwrights David Dean Bottrell and Jessie Jones) is rudimentary and systematically designed to constantly broach every type of flaw or ailment one could have, from alcoholism to farting, from infidelity to bible-humping, and so forth. And although the movie wants you to take it seriously throughout, it additionally throws in scenes like the reverend’s gas and diarrhea difficulties during the funeral for what purpose? Well, in reality, or in “scriptland,” the reason was to give LL Cool J’s character the chance for epiphany and to end his wrong ways. But this is also so fake and simple-minded, you want to smack the director some sense about how people really react.
In the end, despite the Pearly Gates “Kingdom Come” wants to be cozying up to, it’s more like a visit to hell. On one side, we have the theatrical performances, the giant performances, the completely overdone performances: Jada Pinkett-Smith, Loretta Devine, Darius McCrary, LL Cool J, and Anthony Anderson. One the other side, which include some cross-overs, we have the ridiculously flat performances, the bad and terribly fake performances: LL Cool J, Toni Braxton, Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Anderson. Not one of the performances are particularly good –the closest coming to mind are Goldberg and Vivica A. Fox, but everyone else is plastic, chipped and molded. LL Cool J has never been really bad as an actor, though somewhat inexperienced, but none of the amatureness in any of his previous roles could have forewarned us of his awfully artificial and cardboard performance in this.
“Kingdom Come” is another embarrassment to the black community, another statement improperly conducted, and another blatant example that the idea of “black cinema” is recombent for the time being.Final Verdict: F.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5265&reviewer=172
originally posted: 04/21/01 04:38:14