Another addition to the growing list of compelling reasons to put Chris Rock out of my misery.
Pootie Tang. The name might be familiar to viewers of legendary but increasingly unfunny late night comedy show Saturday Night Live, but to most of us in Britain the name means nothing. Certainly the only way that I heard of it comes from a bizarre running joke in Scary Movie 3 and the name sort of stuck. Further digging produces this shiny little disc with a really awful comedy on it, and the fervent wish that I hadn't bothered with it in the first place.
The titular Tangmeister is a faux-pop culture icon, a man who's just too cool for words. As a result, he makes up his own. Shad-da-tay. Shin your piddy on the runny tine. So on and so forth. This is essentially the movie's singular joke, a man wandering around saying meaningless things that somehow everyone understands implicitly. We can generously put this down to a parody of the borderline incomprehensible gangsta-speak that the likes of 50-Cent and Kanye West assault us with, although as satires go it has all of the subtlety of a half-brick to the face. That's not much of a problem if the execution is at least funny.
Sadly, it ain't. The only real joke this film has is it's lead character, and it's barely enough to cover a five minute sketch let alone an 80 minute film. The excuse for such ramblings comes from the evil head of corporate America, Lecter (Robert Vaughn) wanting an end to Pootie's public service announcements promoting healthy eating and clean living, which is making a significant dent in the sales of Lecter's burger, liquor and cigarette franchises. With corporate enforcer Dirty Dee (Reg E. Cathey), a man covered in dirt in accordance with Occam's razor of gag simplicity, unable to dispatch Tang the task falls to hootchie mamma Ireenie (Jennifer Coolidge).
Seducing the previously untouchable Tang and stealing his belt, the apparent source of his ass-kicking badness this gives Lecter the opportunity to sign a contract for exclusive use of Pootie's image in advertising for the goods he'd previously spoken out against. Will Pootie take back his credibility and take down LecterCorp? Do you really need an answer to that question? More importantly, will anyone give even a quarter of a damn?
The answer to the last question is certainly 'No'. In execution Pootie Tang is rather like Undercover Brother with all the funny bits taken out and a dollop of Tellytubbies mixed in for atrocious effect. As it's original idea of a joke falls flat, it'd be lovely if there was a strong supporting cast to fall back on. Ain't happening, brother.
As Pootie's best friend Trucky, the improbably but nicely named J.B. Smoove is given the bulk of the dialogue and narration duties, but isn't up to the task of carrying the deadweight scrip to the realms of respectability. None of the other cast do much to polish the turd, Wanda Sykes' Biggie Shorty (eesh, rotten character name) being a particularly objectionable waste of my time.
The best thing in this movie is Chris Rock, and it's a rare occurrence for theOneliner to say that. As a young Pootie's strict, morally outstanding father he's even pretty funny, reining in the usual squeally-shouty rantings he's made his inexplicably popular trademark. Sadly, as the story progresses he pulls triple duty as Pootie's friend JB and as a radio DJ, in order of increasing urge to staple his mouth shut. You might like Rock, if so fair play to you and you might get a very small amount more from this flick that the Rock playa-hata's such as myself will. Bear in mind that none of his roles amount to more than a few minutes of screentime, however.
Were this movie boiled down to a ten minute sketch it might have dragged a little less, though it would be preferable if it vanished completely. I suppose some of the costume design is quite vibrant, and the soundtrack's pretty decent if you're down with the hip-hop crowd, Prince Paul slumming it to provide the backing for some of Pootie's incomprehensible stylings. This is dragging pretty deep to find positives to comment on, and as such perhaps ought to be disregarded.
At the risk of repeating myself, this film isn't funny. I'm almost positive that this isn't a personal opinion, no cop outs about everyone's sense of humour being different and all that. It can be proved in absolute terms that Pootie Tang was packaged in a laugh-free atmosphere by using some kind of scientific device, although I can't back that up with paperwork. The only truly enjoyable thing about this film was that I had a legitimate excuse to write 'Pootie' umpteen times over the course of this review.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.
J.B. Smoove (Trucky)
Jennifer Coolidge (Ireenie)
Reg E. Cathey (Dirty Dee)
Robert Vaughn (Dick Lecter)
Wanda Sykes (Biggie Shorty)
Chris Rock (JB/Radio DJ/Pootie's Father)