Pick any year in the last 50 years, and think of how many movies came out that you've never even heard of, much less are ever going to end up seeing? Multiplied by 50 for the roughest of rough averages, and you've got a formidable stack of long-forgotten dreck that at one time managed to scrape itself into a big-city multiplex. Of course, it used to be a much more arduous process: begging, borrowing and stealing just in order to get a movie-quality camera and enough 35mm film to burn. These days, as consumer-level cameras make quantum leaps forward in quality every year, it becomes easier and easier for people to take their shot at cinematic stardom, especially if they feel they've got the right physical and creative elements at hand to make something people can relate to. Da' Booty Shop clearly thinks it's got a Clerks.-style coup up its sleeve -- there is a business advertised in the closing credits that goes by the same name as the shop in the movie, but Quick Stop fame is not in the cards: Da' Booty Shop, if you can't already tell by the name, is a hilariously incompetent misfire.
The plot purports to be about a stripper named Yolanda (Trina McGee) who gains control of a local salon when her brother Tyrone (Marcello Thedford -- more on him in a moment) ends up in jail. Business is slow, so she invites her dancer friends to come to the salon and spice things up. In reality the movie is about nothing (although Yolanda squeals "I'm not a stylist. I'm a dancer" at every opportunity). Every film needs a central conflict, so in this case, money was chosen, but it's like the script was written by someone with an extreme case of attention deficit disorder in chunks over the course of about six years, and nobody ever bothered to read it from beginning to end. The movie keeps forgetting it's already introduced money problems Yolanda can't solve: first she finds stacks of Tyrone's unpaid bills (clearly a crew member's mail; have you ever gotten a bill in a bubble mailer?), then finds out from a real estate agent that the store owes $25,000 in back taxes, and finally spends $5000 in "incentive" money from a prospective buyer she can't pay back. The movie also throws in another brief conflict, a woman named Ms. Jackson, who inexplicably stands in front of the store, railing against "the booty" with fliers and street sermons.
Even though the plot is busy tripping over itself to challenge Yolanda, the movie is still grandly unfocused from scene to scene; it's almost an accomplishment how the movie can't seem to pay attention to itself. Conversations happen for no reason. Conflict bubbles up out of nowhere. Yolanda's IQ seems questionable. It's hard to even describe. When Yolanda receives the $5000 incentive money, someone tells her that if she isn't planning to sell the building, she should give the money back. She needs it, she says, but she's got an idea to "double" the money. The following scene is a fashion show inside da booty shop with eight guys in attendance. It's not concretely clear whether or not the guys were charged to come watch, and why, strippers or no strippers, they would come to see a fashion show inside a salon (or what any of it has to do with anything), but unless she charged her spectators about $625 apiece for admittance, this does not "double" the $5000. In fact, it accomplishes nothing at all. Two scenes later, she's spent the money and Yolanda holds a car wash to get it back. What?
Da' Booty Shop is also hampered on a budgetary level in every single frame. Yolanda starts out as a stripper, and there are several scenes set in the back room at the club where she works, but it couldn't be clearer that they're filming in someone's den. Thus, the film never goes out into any other part of the strip club, most notably the stage, because there isn't one. We never see any one of these strippers strip during the entire movie. They don't even dance, except during two of the five -- yes, five -- musical montages in the movie (one of which is literally three solid minutes of people dancing and cutting hair inside da booty shop, with no explanation and little context). The glass-window visitation room in Tyrone's prison is probably in the same house and is clearly a regular, non-soundproof window. The phones they use to talk to each other don't even match. Late in the movie, some thugs trash da booty shop, which amounts to carefully tipping chairs over and throwing magazines all over the floor. It's hard to say how much da booty shop's business is set back by the resultant eight dollars in damage, but since they owe at least $30,000 to various people already, I guess every dollar counts. The budgetary constraints also affected the movie's score. There's two songs and about two minutes worth of composed music in the movie, which you get to hear over and over again. I can't wait until "Girl You Got Your Hair and Nails Did" (actual lyrics) is sweeping the Billboard music charts.
So who's to blame for all of this? Well, none other than Tyrone himself, Marcello Thedford, has to take the responsibility. Why? Well, according to the DVD box (the movie has no IMDb page), Marcello was responsible for the story, producing and executive producing, screenwriting and directing of this movie, on top of playing da jailed ex-booty shop owner. Now, I want to make this next part perfectly clear: I'm not here to hate on Marcello Thedford. I really do think it's an accomplishment on some level that someone has the drive and determination to write a screenplay, get the cash, hire the cast and direct it all on their own, especially on the shoestring budget Thedford so clearly has. The bigger question is: why Da' Booty Shop? I've never seen a more stereotypical set of African American women in a movie in my entire life. If you were to play a drinking game based on the times someone says "Girrrrrrl" and "Mmm-hmmm" in this movie, you would be dead of alcohol poisoning less than 45 minutes in. Was all this finger-snapping, neck-swishing sassiness in the screenplay? Is this really the movie Marcello Thedford's been dying to see his whole life? He also picks a smarmy white guy as his villain. I wouldn't call it racist or even offensive, but it does stick out like a sore thumb.
The back cover for Da' Booty Shop says the movie is 80 minutes long. As Yolanda and her crew's situation reached a predictable rock bottom, I was pretty distracted by the movie's increasing ineptitude (the fifth montage had just finished), and I was steeling myself for the inevitable build to redemption when my friend, who was watching with me, exclaimed in an almost-panicked tone of voice, "THERE'S ONLY FOUR MINUTES LEFT!" and I couldn't stop laughing. Even though the film runs an approximate extra three minutes, to say that Da' Booty Shop rushes its conclusion would be an understatement. It's not even a deus ex machina, there's actually even less of an explanation of how things turn out for Yolanda and crew. Some filmmakers have expressed pride in knowing that "Mystery Science Theater 3000" featured their slice of cinematic history, even as junk. Let's hope Marcello Thedford has a sense of humor.
The DVD comes in the cheapest of cheap transparent plastic cases. I don't know why, since there's nothing printed on the interior side of the cover. The image on the front is too lazily designed to even be called "bad Photoshop", although it features Yolanda next to a stripper pole -- that's one more than there is in the movie. The back cover is extremely bland, although this is where you can see Thedford credited as both producer and executive producer. The menu is extremely easy to navigate, because it only has two giant options on it: Play and Chapters.
The Video and Audio
I'm not exactly sure what ratio this is (perhaps 1.66:1), but despite it being non-anamorphic letterbox, the presentation is actually fine. There's some edge enhancement, but it looks about as good as it could look, given the various sources (some shots are clearly digital, but others seem more film-like). The 2.0 English audio is equally standard, although Thedford doesn't seem to have had real microphones, so the original recording quality varies greatly. There are definitely no subtitles either.
None. It's actually a shame, I'd have greatly enjoyed hearing what Thedford had to say on a commentary, but alas, we're all out of luck.
If you're looking to drunkenly mock a cinematic train wreck, I might actually suggest you rent this unintentionally funny opus. Everyone else, skip it like nobody's business, mmm-hmm!
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