Robert Townsend produced, directed, co-wrote and stars in this 1987 low-budget comedy that jokes about filmmaking and the lack of quality roles for black actors in Hollywood. The film generally is a series of skits, but the humor is occasionally so funny that the lack of solid structure hardly is a concern. Townsend plays Bobby Taylor, an aspiring young actor who despirately wants to be in a movie, but runs into stereotypes. While he works at his day job at the Winky-Dinky Dog hotdog stand, he dreams of what could be.
The funniest of the bits remains "Sneakin In The Movies", an incredibly funny parody of what is now "Roeper and Ebert". Two homeboys sneak into movies and rate pictures like "Amadeus", "Attack of the Street Pimps" and "Dirty Larry". Another very funny bit includes a commercial for "Black Acting School", where "Jive Talk 101" is one of the classes. Some of the scenes in the film go on a little too long or aren't quite successful, but more often than not, Townsend succeeds in coming through with a very funny parody.
It's also impressive that all of this was done on a $100,000 budget. With borrowed film, deferred payments and a short shooting schedule, Townsend was able to make a sharp, funny film that looks quite good. The film was also a success, bringing in 5.2 million at the box office.
VIDEO: "Hollywood Shuffle" is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Dissapointingly, few (if any) of MGM's "Avant Garde Cinema" titles seem to be presented in anamorphic widescreen. Although "Hollywood Shuffle" isn't the worst non-anamorphic presentation that I've seen, there are some noticable problems that take away from the image quality. Sharpness and detail fared suprisingly okay throughout the movie - the picture seemed soft occasionally, but still presented decent detail and looked acceptably well-defined.
Print flaws were suprisingly few and far between. The image showed some minor grain and dirt now and then, but I noticed fewer marks, scratches and speckles than I'd expected to see on a low-budget film that's now 14 years old. Some minimal instances of edge enhancement and a trace or two of pixelation appeared, but these weren't distracting.
Colors appeared fairly well rendered, if slightly faded at times. Overall, this is a decent presentation from MGM, but it would be nice if they treated this "Avant Garde" line (and their catalog titles in general) with a bit more respect.
SOUND: "Hollywood Shuffle" is presented in mono audio. The film's audio is mainly dialogue-driven and the dialogue sounds fine; it varies a bit in volume, but at least is generally easily heard.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that simply re-use the front cover.
EXTRAS:: Just the trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Hollywood Shuffle" is an entertaining low-budget feature that not only offers a number of funny skits, but succeeds in telling the story of Townsend's character seeking his dream. MGM's presentation is unfortunately non-anamorphic, but the film still looks suprisingly decent for a non-anamorphic presentation of a low-budget film. Fans of the film will likely be pleased to be able to own it on DVD, but it certainly could have used more care in it's presentation - a commentary from the cast and crew would likely have been a lot of fun, as well.