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'King's Ransom'

The geniuses behind King's Ransom spend most of the film examining what they feel are universal truths. For starters, white people (and all people, for that matter) are crazy. Second, farts are always good for a laugh and lastly, any scene that involves someone kicking the crap out of a mascot is comic gold. It's too bad the final axiom is the only one that's mostly true.

Considering, Anthony Anderson is a member of TV's single-season cancellation club (apparently viewers were not thrilled about his 2003 WB sitcom All About the Andersons). And the go-to guy for comic relief in lame movies (Kangaroo Jack and Agent Cody Banks 2, to name a few), one has to wonder which big-time Hollywood player Anderson had incriminating photos of to be handed his own vehicle. The result is a comedic bomb deserving of a straight-to-video slot right between Carrot Top's Chairman of the Board and John Leguizamo's The Pest.

Anderson plays Malcolm King, a multimillionaire mogul going through a nasty split from his contemptuous wife (the Bernie Mac Show's Kellita Smith). With half of his empire in jeopardy of being left on the settlement table, King hatches an ill-advised scheme to have himself kidnapped for ransom to get out of paying his soon-to-be ex. He taps his dimwitted secretary's (Regina King) thuggish-ruggish ex-con brother (Chappelle Show's Charlie Murphy) to nab him, but instead, a horny parking attendant posing as King (Donald Faison) is grabbed. Meanwhile, a disgruntled ex-employee (Nicole Ari Parker) and a down-on-his-luck loser (Jay Mohr) are planning even more improbable abductions. What happens next? You guessed it. Wackiness ensues.

The screenplay is the scatter-brainchild of Wayne Conley, whose only other credit was as a writer on Nickelodeon's Kenan and Kel. His sketch comedy background may explain why much of King's Ransom feels disjointed and slapdash (a prime example is a Viagra parody called "Boneagra"---ha!). Employing the classic Three Stooges formula of slapstick and coincidence results in a little madcap energy, such as an amusing quadruple kidnapping scene, but mostly, King's Ransom is as cliched and tired as cops eating doughnuts (actually featured in the film believe it or not).

It's a shame the material is so one-dimensional and flat, because the cast isn't half-bad. Charlie Murphy (younger brother of Eddie) steals every scene he's in with roughneck swagger, but is sorely lacking in screen time. Ditto goes for Donald Faison, whose charisma and talent is brought down by the cinematic "scrubs" he's surrounded by. These bright spots are overshadowed by an annoying Anderson, whose obnoxious King doesn't seem capable of being a manager at Burger King let alone a powerful tycoon. Another embarrassing performance comes courtesy of Mohr (Jerry Maguire, Go), at one time a talented comedian/actor with considerable potential. Now, he's barely fit to be a contestant on Last Comic Standing.

While profanity and vulgarity are usually used as comedic crutches, King's Ransom could have benefited from some. Its PG-13 rating locks the content in a censored stranglehold and things feel stifled as a result. That's not to suggest that cruder language or naked boobies would have made for a better film, but anything capable of snapping viewers out of their 97-minute, glassy-eyed stupor would be a good thing.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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