"Mantan" and "Sleep'n'Eat"
Review by Ross Anthony

Bamboozled is a term Malcolm X used to describe the treatment of blacks by the whites back in the 1900's.

In the film "Bamboozled," we follow TV producer Pierre Delacroix (Wayans) who's dropped his American accent in favor of a countryless Harvardy dialect and his American name for a French one. The character is interesting, but the speech much more annoying than need be.

As the "sole person of color" working for CNS, and frustrated with his impossible-to-please boss, a desperate Pierre goes for the outrageous and creates a TV show intended to satire black stereotypes. "Mantan the New Millennium Minstrel show" boldly black-faces (as in Al Jolson) the black lead actors (a tap dancer and singer) and proudly hails its anthem, "Nigger is a beautiful thing." Set in a watermelon patch, this black "Hee-Haw" with the balls of "South Park" leaves its studio audience (as well as theater-goers) squinting, wincing, wondering. But the confused watchers eventually polarize: those who think the show is a funny way to mock stereotypes on one end; those with shaking fists, dead set on stifling this revival of old slave-mentality TV on the other.

Every black hackneyed film and cartoon image since the turn of the century (1800's to 1900's, that is) are replayed with the purpose of twisting America's stabbing pain of embarrassment a quarter turn in hopes of opening the minds of those that control the media by enraging/educating those that watch it.

But the film twists more than this, an underground group of revolutionaries doesn't quite find the "Amos and Andy" crap funny. "I feel like Dr. Frankenstein," Pierre confesses as this satirical project slowly slips from his command.

As in the film, different people within (and outside of) the black community have their own different ideas on how to best assist the processes of quelling 20th century racist Bamboozledresidue. Some will no doubt find that this film (like its fictional "Mantan Minstrel Show") heartily takes steps towards that goal. Others will hark Pierre's own point, "That was 400 years ago, let it go, move on!" Still others, just won't know what to think. I found myself rotating among these three perspectives. Either way, this film provokes thought, pressing buttons while it entertains.

The taping of the pilot sequence is break out fresh and bold. I loved it! Impressive also, the climax sequence; while simultaneously grossly humorous and solidly dramatic, it left me with a blinking question mark over my head. Jade Pinkett-Smith, Savion Glover, and Tommy Davidson give very strong performances, but Damon Wayans accent is more annoying than satirically entertaining.

"Bamboozled" is shot on videotape, sometimes this supports the feel and intent of the film, and at other times hinders it; but for the most part doesn't effect the play.

  • Bamboozled. Copyright © 2000. Rated R.
  • Starring Damon Wayans, Savion Glover, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tommy Davidson, Michael Rapaport.
  • Written and directed by Spike Lee.
  • Choreography: Savion Glover.
  • Produced by Jon Kilik and Spike Lee at 40 Acres/New Line.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:18:44 PDT