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Overall Rating
3.41

Awesome: 4.55%
Worth A Look50%
Average: 31.82%
Pretty Bad: 9.09%
Total Crap: 4.55%

2 reviews, 10 user ratings


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Get On The Bus
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by Chef ADogg

"This reminds me of the angry black man."
3 stars

I remember the day clearly--everything was green and bright, as if captured by the lens of Malik Hassan Sayeed (who does not photograph this film, unfortunately), and dew was dripping from the trees. I sang to myself a song, perhaps some Notorious B.I.G. ("It was all a dream / I used to read Word Up magazine," sang I, my voice in faux-booming mode, trying to emulate the dearly beloved Biggie). I actually half skipped the short walk from my house to the bus stop (usually I would move along slowly, my feet dragging and my eyes half closed after another long night of partying...actually, staying up to listen to both discs of "All Eyez On Me"). When the bus pulled up, I waited expectantly for the warm smile of the regular bus driver. The doors made a distinctive whoosh sound as they opened, but instead of the chunky middle aged lady who usually hauls our collective ass to school, I was met with the cold stare of an angry black man.

Boy was I surprised.

Instead of staticy B96 noise blasting from the bus radio, the sub had strapped a boom box to the floor of the bus with electrical tape. "I see no changes / Wake up in the morning and ask myself / Is life worth living or should I blast myself?" 2Pac rapped as I mounted the stairs, eyeing this new driver with the foolish reverence that all white hip hop-kids pay to any black person (I must admit, it did help that he was spinning Tupac Shakur's "Greatest Hits" CD).

And I could almost hear him growl, "Get on the bus."

Unfortunately, that man does not embody the spirit of this Spike Lee film. As much as I would like to say that this is a grouchy, cantankerous piece of work about black pride, I cannot lie to the audience--it's actually a very special episode of "Family Matters," with a few f-words thrown in for that ring of authenticity.

Which is not to say that "Get on the Bus" is not a good movie, or that "Family Matters" was not a good show (I love Reginald Val Johnson as much as the next guy)--it's just that both suffer from the same affliction. Gooey centers.

Okay, pretty much everything about "Family Matters" was mushy, but the first hour of "Get on the Bus" is awfully damn promising. It showcases a load of great African American actors, gives them lots of funny, racially driven dialogue, and sticks them right the middle of an ultra-provocative plot: A busful of men overcome a shitload of obstacles on their way to the Million Man March.

The March is something that most folks of the Caucasian persuasion have trouble with: On one hand, you have to admire the ideals behind it. On the other hand, the fact that it was organized by a Jew baiting racist lends a troublesome tint to the celebratory vibe.

I will give Spike his props for showing both sides of the coin (extra props for coming to a decision as a filmamker and standing by it), but I must detract points from the turn the film takes halfway through. Near the end, it becomes dogged by sentimentality and way too many speeches.

While I was pleased that Thomas Jefferson Byrd got a big scene, I didn't think it needed to be followed up with a rabble rousing pep talk by Charles Dutton. The movie overall shares this predicament--solid, thought provoking subject matter weighed down by shameless moralizing and preaching.

It's actually saying something for the film that the inequality of the two halves are the biggest problem--in that I mean, boredom never plays a factor. The dialogue is pounded out with trip hammer precision, lending Spike's cloudy vision an injection of conversational reality. The characters themselves are dripping with the appropriate amount of venom--well rounded, three dimensional, and true to life, the black people in this film are portrayed as African Americans rarely are in popular media (read: as real people).

All of this is fine and dandy, and I love the motivation behind the picture, but the execution drags late in the film. When the characters should be reaching the march, there is instead a lot of frustrating melodrama and speechifying. I wish the movie were more consistent, and the ending not so fundamentally flawed (there's really no excuse). I guess the underlying messgae is that the characters are more important than the plot, but this is one joint where that's not necessarily true. Unlike the other films by Lee, the story is not created by these people---they're just folks who find themselves in a trying situation. I wish he had capped off the original story instead of starting a new one.

"Get on the Bus" is enjoyable and vivid, for the most part, but loses points for the eventual softening of its message. There is, however, an essential goodness to it, and strong texture to the scenes of interaction between the men. It deserves to be watched, so I leave you now with the (imagined) words of one very angry bus driver: "Get on the bus."

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=647&reviewer=123
originally posted: 07/29/99 10:40:27
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User Comments

9/16/10 PAUL SHORTT VIBRANT, EFFECTIVE AND HIGHLY ENERGISED 4 stars
5/19/08 jointz GOTB is NOT a blame-whitey film. Lee's intent was NOT to glorify the march, you dumbasses. 4 stars
1/17/04 Agent Sands It's OK, engrossing enough, but not up to Spike Lee par. 3 stars
4/23/02 KMG Yeah, honkies did it 2 stars
9/09/01 Butterbean Uncle Roy is an ass, but he's right about it being a "blame whitey" film. I find it tiring. 2 stars
6/23/01 Scorsese, Spike Lee, Stone, Mann..... A film about men. 5 stars
11/02/99 Gina A beautiful uplifting film! 4 stars
11/02/99 Gina A beautiful uplifting film! 4 stars
6/28/99 Steve Bashakus Uncle Roy is obviously a product of inbreeding. A challenging yet internally flawed film. 4 stars
2/16/99 Uncle Roy Yo' typical blame witey nigga film 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  16-Oct-1996 (R)

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