stand-up to sitcom
what i watched last week

by request: whiteboyz (mark levin, 1999)

It took me awhile to follow up on this request, since the film seems to be available under two titles (Whiteboyz and Whiteboys) and for the longest time, I thought they were two different movies and didn’t know which one had been requested.

Whiteboyz captures turn-of-the-century wigga culture in a way that seems both exaggerated and believable, and adds an extra element by placing most of the film in Iowa, rather than one of the coasts (although they eventually visit Chicago, which serves as the “real world” as opposed to their fantasies of the real). Since there are hardly any actual black people in their town (the one that we see is a college-bound, middle-class chap), the crew is able to play their wannabe games without anyone challenging them (although the other kids think they’re nuts). The wiggas take their behavior to the extreme, without realizing that’s what they are doing, since they appear to believe that African-American life is just like a Master P video. Some of this is funny, but the film’s tone is so random that you can’t tell from one scene to the next if we’re supposed to be laughing at these guys, sympathizing with them, or just wishing someone would beat the crap out of them.

In other words, Whiteboyz is a mess. Occasionally, everything clicks, but such moments are rare. It would probably work better as a short. If it’s a comedy, it could easily be a continuing skit on Saturday Night Live. If it’s a drama, they could cut all of the repetition and give us a much shorter movie, maybe a 42-minute job that would stretch to an hour with commercials on FX.

I am obliged to note that Piper Perabo is in this movie. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other about Perabo, but she’s the star of Covert Affairs, a TV show my wife watches, and so we have a running joke where whenever she turns up in something, I exclaim, “Hey, it’s Piper Perabo!” Whiteboyz was her first feature film. A year later, she caught people’s attention with Coyote Ugly, and ever since, she has worked steadily. She hasn’t become a big star, but she usually livens up whatever she’s in, even if her part is small (she had so little screen time in Looper that I forgot to say “Hey, it’s Piper Perabo!”). Meanwhile, I fear it says something about Whiteboyz that I am reduced to talking about the actress who played a secondary character. 6/10.

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