What do we know about cookouts? You have to be in the right frame of mind, and even if you are, you go mostly to satiate your appetite with just the good stuff on the menu, and pretty quickly, you're read for a nap. That about sums up the feeling you'll get watching Cookout.
Todd Anderson (Storm P, or Quran Pender) is about to make it big. He's being drafted into the NBA for Jersey state. His parents, Emma (Jennifer Lewis) and Jojo (Frankie Faison), are thrilled. And so is Todd's new girl Britanny (Meagan Good), who mom and dad can tell is a gold digger. Before the endorsements even roll in, Todd has gotten his parents a white butler, and has bought a huge house for himself in a white neighborhood. Problem is, this neighborhood isn't too keen on black folk moving in, despite the fact that the security guard (Queen Latifah) protecting the whole community is African-American. Also, a very white bred Judge Crowley (Danny Glover) lives next door to Todd with his wife, (Farrah Fawcett), who cries out in terror when she sees that there are "negroes" moving in next store. And wait until Todd's family throws a cookout to celebrate his career move, and all the embarrassing family members you'd rather keep hidden in the closet come out to play, including an obese set of cousins, an aunt who thinks her son should have been the one to be the big basketball star, a single mom with a whole lot of kids with unknown daddies, a pair of black hillbillies and more. Then there's the uptight white woman from a cell phone company who is considering giving Todd an endorsement—if she finds his lifestyle is on the up and up when she comes to observe him for a day. And there's Bling Bling (Ja Rule), the kid from Todd's past who plots to force Todd to sign a bunch of stolen pairs of sneakers so he can make a fortune off them by selling them on Ebay.
This all sounds like it could be loads of wacky fun, but there's just not much substance here. Some parts will give you a slight chuckle, but it's mostly cliché, overdone stereotyping. Queen Latifah has a funny line now and then, and I love just about every movie she ever does, but she's an over-the-top, corny caricature as the wanna-be SWAT member security guard (she's too much like the Loretta Devine's character Reese from Urban Legend). Ja Rule is actually quite funny in the moments he gets on screen, and I'd much rather see him act than sing. I don't know why Farrah Fawcett was even in this movie. There was so much opportunity to play off her hypocritical racist-married-to-a-black-guy character, yet she was in the film for a total of about 7 minutes. Danny Glover, likewise. The uppity white woman from the cell phone company never seemed to have all that much of a problem with Todd's crazy family, and the family members were so many that no one character could be all that well flushed out as a real funnyman. And then there's the usual stereotype seen in just about every black movie of the gay man as a total queenie femme, this time, in the guise of two French chefs. Yawn. Eve makes a short appearance in the end as Todd's best friend from childhood who used to be a geek but is now a hot beauty. Still, no shining moment. I'd say the best part of the movie was the old school funk soundtrack and the hip-hop remix of the theme to The Jeffersons. This movie is all cute, and no quality. Nothing happens in this movie. Take the hint, and go watch some Jeffersons reruns.
The film is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The color levels are perfect, as are the flesh tones. The blacks are a bit on the gray side, but still offer nice contrast with the lites. The image is somewhat smooth but still manages to retain definition. The print is quite clean.
You have two options, either 5.1 dolby digital or 2.0. The sound quality is very sharp, with clean separation and good depth and surround effects. The bass kicks in mostly when a song is cued. It's frustrating that during the menu for the movie, the same songs play and the bass is too extreme, leading to inconsistent sound levels and desperate dives for the surround system remote control.
Aside from 24 chapter breaks to select from and the options for English or Spanish subtitles, this movie is loaded with extras, seemingly to make up for the mediocrity of the film:
INTRODUCTION to DVD—Storm P & Jenifer Lewis are sitting in chairs next to each other and basically say, "Welcome to the Cookout DVD. Lame—especially since you have to select it from the menu and it doesn't actually introduce the movie.
DELETED SCENES—9 scenes, presented in letterbox, some of which were funny, others which were better off deleted.
JOYZ OF COOKIN—photos of each character along with humorous text recipes for a cookout dish, including brownies, onion rings, chicken, cornbread and more.
TRAILERS—for Saw and the L'il Pimp cartoon. Weird combo.
DVD CREDITS—the names of the crew who put the disc together.
RECIPE FOR THE COOKOUT—23 minute making of with cast comments, interspersed with goofing off on the set.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD COOKOUT—the cast member tell anecdotes of what a cookout means to them, for 9 minutes.
STREETBALLIN—Storm P discusses the basketball scenes for 5 minutes—that's about as long as the basketball scenes were.
GOLD DIGGERS—the cast talks about the concept of a gold digger for 5 minutes.
FAMILY COMMENTARY—Jennifer Lewis & Storm P provide the commentary on this film, and they sound like two people in a movie theater audience rather than commentators. All they do is talk to the characters on the screen rather than discuss any aspects of making the film.
Cookout uses every cliché and stereotype in the book and wastes a whole load of talent. Cookout burns out real quick. Try and catch it on cable. Better yet, Tivo it off cable so you can fast forward.