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.
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