So, is this movie a remake, a sequel, a reimaging, a reboot, or a combination of all of them? It’s actually a throw-back to the 90’s movie of the same name that launched not one, but four sequels! And yes, Kid ‘n’ Play from the original film make their respective cameos in this film as they should.
A tale of two slackers: Kevin (Jacob Latimore), a divorced single father who’s about to be kicked out of his parent’s home, and his best friend, Damon (Tosin Cole), a fast-talking, unscrupulous wheeler-dealer who’s also in peril of losing his house privileges. After being fired from their cleaning job at LeBron James’ mansion, Damon comes up with a crazy, ridiculous plan. Throw a gigantic super party at the famous basketball players estate to get the money to save them both. And since LeBron is out of the country, who’s the wiser? Not sure if this is a good idea, level-headed Kevin reluctantly agrees, especially after his wanna-be girlfriend, Venus (Karen Obilom), agrees to help them out. And, hey, adding a super-cool DJ, like their buddy, Vic (DC Young Fly) would only add to the party! What could possibly go wrong? How about a Chekov’s gun that is introduced early on in the form of three nasty street thugs (Melvin Gregg, Rotimi, and Allen Maldonado) who want to do Damon harm for stealing a gold necklace.
Anyway, the boys stumble into LeBron’s private museum where the keeps his prized NBA ring, his Humanitarian Award, and a self-congratulatory hologram of himself. As they prepare for the party, they meet the wacky next-door neighbor (Andrew Santino) and his pet koala and send out the impressive guest list which includes a who’s who of singers, rappers, NBA players, and celebrities. With the party in full swing, money rolling in, and Kevin & Damon doing a dance-off (like Kid & Play did) with Venus and a famous singer (Tinashe), things start to go downhill. From party crashers to a stoned-killer koala to their DJ going bonkers, Kevin & Damon reach the requisite second-act break-up, only to find that someone has stolen LeBron’s NBA Championship ring! Uh-oh!
In a bizarre and deliciously dark third-act twist, Damon & Kevin have to rely on Cuti (Kid Cuti), a strange party-goer who takes them to an Eyes Wide Shut-ish Illuminati party to get them a duplicate NBA ring. This is by far the best part of the movie as the tone shifts and revitalizes the movie for its conclusion. Written by novice’s Stephen Glover & Jamal Olori (Guava Island, TV series Atlanta, SNL), this film wants to capture the magic of the 90’s House Party, but doesn’t quite reach those lofty goals. I admit I’m not well-versed in the world of rap & hip-hop but I do know comedy, and much of it lies in the strength of the writing, which suffers in the first act. After the two guys get into the mansion and the hijinks ensue, the usual schtick happens with the house being wrecked and the guys trying to stop it. This we’ve seen in at least a dozen other movies. It does have its moments but they come far and in between.
You can tell this was written for themselves and their fans as a plethora of rappers, singers, etc. show up for a line or two, plus a lot of inside jokes and gags. However, that third act is a WTH Twilight Zone doozy and comes out of nowhere, making all your waiting through the previous stuff well worth it. This is Calmatic’s first theatrical directing gig as all his previous work has been shooting music videos, which, if you’ve seen many of them today, are like mini-movies anyway. He shoots it much like a sitcom but it’s smooth and delivers some unexpected surprises. His future gig is a (*groan*) remake of the great Woody Harrelson/Wesley Snipes movie, White Men Can’t Jump. I hate remakes.
**Now showing in theaters only
House Party (1990)
Based on his Harvard University student film by writer/director Reginald Hudlin, this low-budget film made a killing at the box office as it was the sorta Black version of Ferris Buehler’s Day Off mixed with Can’t Hardly Wait and other teen films.
Ah, the 90’s! Cassette players, football phones, boom-boxes, rap music was in its infancy, and teens were being played by actors in their late 20’s. It’s Los Angeles and three high schoolers are planning a kick-ass party for the following night. Nervous Bilal (Martin Lawrence) is the DJ and has all the equipment and records, while smooth-talking ladies man, Peter “Play” Martin (Christoper “Play” Martin) is trying to get as many girls as possible to come. Meanwhile, his best friend, Christopher “Kid” Robinson Jr. (Christopher “Kid” Reid) with his signature stove-pipe Afro, is having all kinds of problems. He’s run afoul of the school bully, Stab (Paul Anthony George), and his two nasty brothers, Pee-Wee and Zilla (Lucien “Bow-Legged Lou” George, jr. & Brian “B-Fine” George), aka Full Force.
Worse yet, Kid’s hard-working father (Robin Harris, who sadly passed away nine days after filming) has forbidden his son to go to any party! So, what does Kid do? He goes anyway! After a series of misadventures on the way there (idiot cops, Full Force, a snooty garden party), Kid finally arrives at Play’s house (Christopher Martin’s IRL home in L.A.!) and meets two friends from school, Sydney & Sharane (Tisha Campbell & A. J. Johnson). As the packed party gets going, Kid tries to hook up with pretty Sharane but ends up taking the more confident Sydney home. As the evening progresses, things get crazy as Kid’s dad comes looking for his son, Kid gets chased by Full Force and the cops, and finally ends up in jail. Fortunately, he gets bailed out by Play and friends and goes home. . . only to meet his very irate father waiting for him!
Made for a low $2.6 million, it grossed over $26 and become “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, according to the Library of Congress when they chose it for their National Film Registry. While it lacks the slam-bang comedy of Ferris Buehler, it more than makes up for it in its cast. Practically the entire ensemble is filled with real-life rappers, DJ’s, singers, and musicians. And director Hudlin encouraged his cast to ad-lib their lines, especially stand-up comedian Robin Harris. Both Martin & Reid are engaging and make quite the pair, especially during the much talked about “dance-off” scene against Campbell & Johnson. While Martin and Lawrence are funny, Reid is less so, looking uncomfortable acting on camera (his very first movie). It may not be a LOL movie, but it has its moments and is a time capsule into the 90s and the culture back then.