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Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in The Hood: Unrated Collector's Series
Born from the goofball spoof subgenre created by Airplane!, Don't Be a Menace... is not so much a movie as it is a randomly assembled series of skits, sketches, and set-pieces, all of which are lifted whole from earlier movies. It's as if the Wayans Brothers (Damon, Shawn, and Keenen Ivory) just sat down with a pile of movies and just snagged whatever they thought they could spin, tweak, or parody with the least amount of effort or creativity.
And before you dismiss my criticisms as those of a Jewish whiteboy movie-geek who doesn't know the source material, you can rest assured that I'm quite familiar with Boyz n the Hood, Menace II Society, South Central, Juice, Jungle Fever, Fresh, Dead Presidents, Higher Learning, Do the Right Thing, and Poetic Justice -- so I "got" all the jokes that the Wayanses are flinging on to the screen.
But here's the rub: Just making a bunch of broad and obvious references to well-known films is not the stuff of classic spoof-dom. The brothers seem to believe that if an audience member simply recognizes a joke's source material, then their job is finished and they can move on to the next desperate sketch. And when all else fails, they can just drop the delusions of satire and deliver a half-naked fat woman, a foul-mouthed stoner granny, or simply a loud fart joke.
Directed in completely haphazard and chitnzy fashion by first-time / last-time feature filmmaker Paris Barclay, Don't Be a Menace... maintains a healthy mini-cult following among those who love the "urban strife" classics of the 1990s, but if you're looking for some broad comedy material that pokes a little fun at black culture, check out the rap spoofs CB4 and Fear of a Black Hat, or underrated laughers like Undercover Brother, Hollywood Shuffle, and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka! Aside from a few stray chuckles that pop up every 21 minutes, Don't Be a Menace... is as simplistic and obvious as spoofs come. Frankly I'm surprised that Leslie Nielsen didn't show up as a daffy high-school teacher.
As far as the new material added into the "unrated collector's edition" is concerned, I'm afraid I'm at a loss. This afternoon was my first visit with Don't Be a Menace... since its theatrical release back in 1996, so any new material flew right over my head. Not counting the end credits, the thing runs just about 89 minutes, so I can't imagine anything more than 120 seconds or so was added back in. If nudity is what you're after, look elsewhere, because the "unrated" material must be a few random moments of profane screeching. One can only assume this stuff was initially cut for a reason, but through the awesome power of "double-dip" marketing, formerly rejected material now qualifies as "collector's edition" material.
Video: The film is presented in a Widescreen Anamorphic (1.85:1) format, and the picture quality is ... passable. It sure isn't crisp or all that colorful, but it was a cheap-looking movie from the start, anyway.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which provides low dialogue levels that kick in a bit louder when the hip-hop tunes hit your speakers. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.
Extras: This low-grade Miramax double-dip yields surprisingly little goods to earn its "collector's edition" moniker. (Isn't this the same designation they gave to their phenomenal Trainspotting re-release?) We all know Miramax is going through some serious struggles these days, but fans of this particular flick probably deserve a little better than what's offered here.
You'll get a pair of making-of featurettes; Hood Movie Gumbo (4:25) & The Wayans Brothers Behind the Scenes (3:21) are practically identical (and equally worthless) on-set EPK promo-fests that fans of the film will watch precisely once and then never click again. Those same fans will also be treated to one whole deleted scene that's packing zero in the laughs department. The disc opens with trailers for Mindhunters and Scary Movie 3.5: Unrated, neither of which are accessible through the menu screens.
You'd have to search far and wide to find a more desperately unfunny and hopelessly mug-laden performance than the one offered by Shawn Wayans in this aggressively amateurish spoof. And he's not even the worst thing about the movie. I'd say Rent It if you already dig the flick, but don't be surprised if your opinion of the movie sinks the longer it goes on. Newcomers need not apply.