Posted by Billyjam, July 16, 2009 10:00pm | Post a Comment
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So last night I finally got to see the much hyped new Sacha Baron Cohen box-office hit Bruno, which, as a diehard Baron Cohen/Ali G/Borat/Bruno fan from ever since Da Ali G Show first premiered on Channel 4, I was really looking forward to seeing. But, boy, was I let down. To paraphrase Baron Cohen's flamboyantly gay Austrian TV fashionista character, this new movie "ist aus," as in, opposite of "in." And it wasn't that I was shocked in any way, or that I found it offensive to gays, or to redneck Americans, for that matter. I just found it offensive to my sense of humor. I expected a lot more from the great Baron Cohen.

Where was the quick witted Bruno from Da Ali G Show? The one whose hilarious skits included brilliantly manipulating fashion tastemakers into totally contradicting themselves without realizing how ridiculous they looked? Replacing genuine wit and biting satire, post Borat Bruno was merely a barrage of slapstick penis jokes with no real substance or humor to back them up. Even Bruno's encounter with Ron Paul, which could have been the screen magic of such past Ali G interviews with Newt Gingrinch,  Andy Rooney, and Pat Buchanan, fell totally flat in comparision.

Of course, the new Bruno isn't a total waste. The movie offered occasional belly laugh moments such as the Paula Abdul encounter. But my advice is don't rush out to theaters to see it. Wait until it comes out on da ali g showDVD. And speaking of DVDs you should get at Amoeba, I would recommend going back and checking out Da Ali G Show for the far superior Bruno appearances from that missed TV series. Also go back to check out the totally slept on (especially Stateside) pre-Borat 2002 Ali G Indahouse: The Movie about the unlikely rise to fame and political power by the jungle/hip-hop goon from the suburb of Staines that Baron Cohen plays so brilliantly.

I also recommend going back and watching or rewatching three other great rap-themed comedies in the hip-hop parody or mockumentary categories. All released in the nineties, they are CB4 (1993), Fear Of A Black Hat (1994), and Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996). Over the past week I went back and re-watched all three of these films, which I hadn't seen since I bought the VHS versions back in the day, and they are even funnier than the first time around. Video clips and brief summaries of each follow.

The hilarious Fear Of A Black Hat (aka "the first ever drive by comedy")'s title is a deliberate direct bite at Public Enemy's Fear Of A Black Planet (1990). The film's mockumentary style owes a great deal (as do so many films) to This Is Spinal Tap. It was directed by Rusty Cundieff, who also wrote the script and co-stars in the film along with Mark Christopher Lawrence, Larry B. Scott and a strong supporting cast. The pseudo rap music documentary follows the hardcore gangsta rap group NWH, whose name is close to NWA's, but Hats replaces Attitude. As lead rapper of the trip Ice Cold, played by Cundieff, explains to sociologist/interviewer character Nina Blackburn (played by Kasi Lemmons), "Shit, the hats're what NWH is all about. See, back in the day when there were slaves and stuff, we was forced to work in the hot sun all day, hatless. I mean, not even a babushka...So when the slaves got back from the fields, they was too tired to revolt against they masters. So what we're sayin' now is: 'Yo, wecb4 got some hats now, muh-fuckas!'"

Ice Cold, a direct spoof on Ice Cube, Ice T, and all the other Ice's, is joined by his equally cartoonish rap potnas, fellow emcee Tasty Taste, whose typical response to a situation is "I'll bust a cap in yo' ass," and Tone Def (the DJ). The film not only makes spot on fun of gangsta rap but also perfectly parodies numerous other sub-genres and artists, including hippie rappers PM Dawn in the song/video "I'm Just A Human Being" (see below) or the Dr. Dre produced G-funk rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg, as parodied in the Ice Froggy Frog video skit (below).

Operating on a similar theme but with a bigger budget than Black Hat is the Tamra Davis directed CB4, released a year earlier, in which NWA were also parodied in a very thinly veiled but good humored way. In fact, Ice Cube and Eazy E even made cameos in this supposed documentary, giving props to the fictional hardcore rap group CB4. This popular gangsta group from Locash took their name from the prison area in which they supposedly formed, Cell Block 4 (CB4). The movie pointedly pokes fun at many aspects of gangsta rap (including posers who ain't gangsta) and hip-hop in general, including the MC Hammer like character, Wacky Dee

CB4's cast is excellent, especially Chris Rock in the lead role as MC Gusto, or Albert Brown, as he is known to his middle class family, who shake their heads at his gangsta posing. And Chris Elliot, who plays the gullible up-and-coming documentary filmmaker, is wonderful, as are the late great Phil Hartman, who plays the Sacramento politician Virgil Robinson, and Charlie Murphy in his small role as Gusto. But the real star don't be a the movie's satire of rap music and its makers. Highlights include CB4's hits "Sweat From My Balls" and "Straight Outta Locash," the Afro-centric mocking song/video "I'm Black Ye'all," and Wacky Dee's crossover pop hit video "Did I Mention That I Can Dance?" (see below).

Directed by Paris Barclay and produced by the Wayans', who all (with the exception of Damon) make appearances, Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood was the follow up to the comedy family's equally hilarious I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Bringing one laugh after another, this film not only makes fun of hip-hop, but it also accurately spoofs the hip-hop movie genre of the decade leading up to its 1996 release. Films like Boyz N the Hood, Juice, Menace II Society, South Central, Poetic Justice, Jungle Fever, New Jack City, and Do The Right Thing are each ridiculed with relish. If you are already familiar with these earlier black coming of age, rap themed films, it will only add to the laughs. And even if you are not familiar, this is one hella funny flick. I particularly love how it so shamelessly and accurately mocks the genre it borrows its material from; like the scene near the beginning in which the main character Ashtray, played by Shawn Wayans, is bluntly informed by his mother, who will not appear again in the film that, "there ain't no positive black females in these movies." The movie's all star cast includes the late great Bernie Mac, as seen in clip immediately below.

Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996)

Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996)

Wacky Dee (CB4) 1993

"I'm Black Ye'all" (CB4) 1993

"I'm Just A Human Being" (Fear Of A Black Hat) 1994

Ice Froggy Frog (Fear of a Black Hat) 1994

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Ali G (3), Fear Of A Black Hat (1), Wayan Brothers (1), Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In (1), Bruno (2), Sacha Baron Cohen (2), Cb4 (4)