2 stars (out of 4)
At least on paper, it sounds promising: Gangsta rap as co-opted by white suburban kids gets the sitcom treatment in a Jamie Kennedy showcase. But "Malibu's Most Wanted" doesn't aim for more than padding a plot around Kennedy so he can do his Brad "B-Rad" Gluckman character full-force. And the joke soon wears thin. The talented Kennedy, who co-wrote the script, first created B-Rad in his stand-up routine and later featured him many times on his TV show ("JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment"). But as with most movies that start as comic sketches-much of the "Saturday Night Live" franchise, for example-the funny ideas and characters are rarely fleshed out enough to justify 90 minutes.
B-Rad is a blond-haired, blue-eyed, Jewish suburban kid named Brad so immersed in hip-hop culture that he believes he's a gangsta rapper, despite groan-inducing rhymes about his hard life in the Bu. Naive, sincere and talentless, B-Rad is a clever-yet-shallow comic creation-and the film's plot does little to add depth or bite.
Brad's father, Bill Gluckman (Ryan O'Neal), is running for governor of California, and Bill's handlers decide Brad, despite his eagerness to help, is a campaign liability. This political subplot is executed in by-the-book sitcom style. Brad unfurls a banner at a women's group rally that trumpets his dad's desire to help the "bitches and hos." The humor is watered down by its complete improbability (isn't the job of handlers to make sure stunts like this don't occur?) and the unimaginative way director John Whitesell ("See Spot Run") stages the scene.
Campaign manager Tom Gibbons (Blair Underwood) devises a way to de-ghettoize Brad. He hires two African-American actors, Sean and PJ (Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson), to pose as boys from the 'hood. They are supposed to kidnap Brad and scare the wits out of him by giving him a strong dose of gangsta reality. There's at least a reference to the Hollywood system whereby skilled black actors are limited to roles as thugs-the famed "Hollywood Shuffle" of Robert Townsend's movie-but "Malibu's Most Wanted" doesn't probe this rich subtext.Indeed, the film itself lurches into uncomfortable territory, with Kennedy spoofing black culture and black actors reduced to supporting stereotypes. The film's intended joke is that Brad, the rich white kid, is no more a fake than Sean and PJ, pretending to be ghetto with their toy guns and heavy chains around their necks.
But B-Rad never becomes more than a cartoon: a jive-spouting rapper who's really just a poser, a gansta rap marshmallow.
"Malibu's Most Wanted"
Directed by John Whitesell; written by Fax Bahr, Adam Small, Jamie Kennedy and Nick Swardson; photographed by Mark Irwin; edited by Cara Silverman; production design by Bill Elliott; score by John Van Tongeren and Damon Elliott; produced by Mike Karz, Bahr, Small. A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 1:26. MPAA rating: PG-13. (sexual humor, language and violence)
Tec.....Damien Dante Wayans
Tom Gibbons.....Blair Underwood
Bill Gluckman.....Ryan O'Neal