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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.82%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Average: 29.55%
Pretty Bad38.64%
Total Crap: 15.91%

4 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Black & White
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by EricDSnider

"What a curious trainwreck!"
2 stars

The most unusual thing about writer/director Jeremy Toback's "Black and White" is that he actually thought it would be a GOOD idea to allow Mike Tyson to improvise.

Mike Tyson is not an actor, of course; he's a boxer/rapist who speaks in a squeaky, barely comprehensible patter even when he knows what he's going to say. Yet even he, playing himself, doesn't come up with the worst performance in the movie. In a film marked by bad performances even from good actors (as well as some by known bad actors), it's a toss-up who's worst. Is it Robert Downey Jr. as the gay husband of an amateur documentary filmmaker played by Brooke Shields, or is it bland-and-laughable Shields herself? Which of the two mumbly monotoned catatonic hip-hoppers is worse? The basketball player trying to act, or the musician trying to act?

About 30 minutes into the film, I jotted down, "What is this movie about?!" It's over now and I still don't really know, so explaining it will be difficult. Shields's character, a nose-ringed NYU graduate, is doing a documentary about the phenomenon of white high school kids who dress, talk and act black, having been influenced by the hip-hop culture. There's a group of those kids whom we sort of follow and sort of get to know, as well as the people who actually are black with whom some of them are connected, primarily by way of sex. A number of subplots jostle for screen time, but the central one seems to be a college basketball player named Dean (Allan Houston) who is bribed by Mark Clear (Ben Stiller) to throw a game, which leads to dire consequences and third-act plot twists. His friend Rich (Oliver "Power" Grant), a big-shot Harlem gangster, gets dragged into it, and things are downhill from there.

As much as anything, "Black and White" is about sex: interracial sex, homosexual sex, sex for revenge, sex for rebellion, etc., etc. It's also about the hip-hop culture. What the film fails to do, however, is actually SAY anything about either subject. There's plenty of sex and plenty of hip hop, but so what? Showing us a lot of examples of your subjects is not the same as giving insight into them.

Much of the film was improvised -- a risky move in any case, but especially when dealing with such a large number of non-actors. Much of the dialogue is stilted and forced, and not one of the characters ever comes across as compelling. Some of them may be realistic insofar as there really are a lot of people who say the F-word 12 times per sentence, but the guy sitting next to me at the bus stop might be realistic, too, and that doesn't mean I'd want to watch a movie about him.

The soundtrack is stellar, and Ben Stiller outclasses everyone in the film with a performance that actually borders on funny (far below his usual status, but better than everyone else here). But Tyson and Downey have a scene that is one of the most uncomfortable, embarrassing pieces of work I've seen in a while, and I have seen a LOT of community theater. Still, at least their scene was interesting to watch, like a train wreck. The rest of the movie, a hodge-podge of unclear themes and pointless scenes, hardly even warrants that much attention.

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originally posted: 06/30/03 17:27:35
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User Comments

1/12/08 mr.mike Found it surprisingly watchable , and Downey and even Shields were very good. 4 stars
4/01/06 Tanya interesting I liked robert downey jr. 4 stars
6/14/05 Weltner Anti-White cinema,same old,same old. 1 stars
10/13/04 Laura If u don't have any thing nice to say, DON:T SAY IT AT ALL!!! 5 stars
10/04/03 Josh better than most think 4 stars
2/22/03 nanite if you think this movie is idiotic, it goes all the way to being ludicrous in german 2 stars
12/13/02 Monster W. Kung Ok premise, but the film structure goes nowhere and the plot falls apart more and more. 2 stars
6/24/02 blake loved it 5 stars
1/03/02 jon j waste of time 1 stars
9/01/01 Butterbean Bad enough that it was a shitty, directionless movie. But it was long as hell too! 1 stars
8/31/01 Amy A numbing mess, some solid acting, but I'd be more entertained doing laundry 2 stars
7/29/01 the Grinch Black and white like a turd with peanuts in it... 1 stars
5/09/01 zer0 Mike Tyson is the only reason to watch this film. Watch him bitchslap Robert Dwney Jr. 2 stars
11/19/00 The Bomb 69 all over the place, glad he tried something different, but overall... 2 stars
10/18/00 Klute Plenty to enjoy, but the sum of it's parts don't equal a good film. 3 stars
5/03/00 H'wood bigshot Didn't go far enough. Bro's shoulda killed all, cussed out audience/shot the finger at all. 1 stars
4/15/00 PJ I love Toback, Fingers, and 2 Girls and a Guy, great as was this mess of a good movie 4 stars
4/14/00 D117 Makes Black people look like a bad influence. That's a bad message for the film to give. 1 stars
4/12/00 Moskkina Toback rips off Clark's "KIDS" horribly lame flick about pathetic & sad wannabe white kidsd 1 stars
4/07/00 leah this movie could have been 4 hours long and i still would have been completely content. 5 stars
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  28-Sep-2000 (M)

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