|The Cookout is a film whose creators should be congratulated on their feat of smashing absolutely every single stereotype concerning white people, black people, poor people, and rich people into one eighty-five minute film. There is something to be said for a film that satirizes these stereotypes and turns them on their ear. But The Cookout can't own this distinction. The filmmakers here make the deadly mistake of wanting people to take seriously the bevy of stereotypes seriously.|
Infused with a despicable amount of soupy musical score (that seems more appropriate for a Lifetime Original Movie), there has been an obvious attempt by filmmakers here to cover up the fact that the script is rather dreadful and that none of the actors benefit from a strong storyline. The dialogue and plot are really so hilariously predictable that it's actually quite unfunny how easy it is to discern the ending of this film.
Something that viewers might notice after viewing this film is the fact that the stakes are never really that high for the protagonist or any of his friends. Newcomer Quran Pender plays "Todd Andersen," promising future basketball star who has just secured a multi-million dollar deal to play for New Jersey. Although he handles the role without too much effort, that's actually part of the problem. He and none of the other actors had to put in much effort for their performances.
Ja Rule, for example, plays "Bling Bling," a rather dim thug whose mission in life is to secure Todd Andersen's signature on some sneakers so he can sell them for big money on eBay. His character is supposed to be more slap-stick than dangerous (or it seems like it for most of the film), but when he actually starts getting serious, his character just falls out of reality. It's not a case of Ja Rule being unable to handle the role though. Rather, it's the fault of a script filled with confusing non secuitors and iffy jokes.
A wide and varied cast has been brought together for the various stock roles in this film (a goofy father, a sentimental mother, a gold-digging girlfriend, a paranoid cousin, etc. etc.), but the actors in this film should be wary of including this film on their curriculum vitae. Farrah Fawcett in particular should be especially warned of telling people she was involved in this film. Her performance is simply unfunny. Tim Meadows too (playing a paranoid, black conspiracy theorist), utters a serious of paranoid conspiracies regarding The Man's attempts to keep the Black Man down and although this worked hilariously for Dave Chappelle in 2002's Undercover Brother, Meadows just makes a mess of the character.
There is a really rather gaping hole in this film though that can't be explained by any rational reasons. Near the beginning of the film, an "evil" basketball franchise owner decides that he will do anything to secure Andersen as a player on his team. But beyond this one strange scene showing the (white) owner saying that his employee must do anything necessary to get Andersen to play, this side of the plot is never brought up again. It feels like a major plot-point, but absolutely nothing in the rest of the film deals with this major scene.
This film is certainly not a stand-out as far as it's "mini" genre is concerned (the growing crop of predominantly black cast films that have become popular in the past three years) and it will certainly not jump the boundary into main-stream audience appreciation. It's simply a very poorly made film and it's a shame and a waste of Queen Latifah’s comedic talent. And whoever convinced Danny Glover to place his reputation on the line must have been a supreme negotiator, because his scenes are practically embarrassing.
As is most of the dialogue and characterization in this film. It seems very sloppily put together without much emphasis placed on the dialogue and character motivations. For a comedy to succeed, the comedy has got to be funny. And in this most important area, this film trips so much more often than not. Latifah gets her laughs occasionally by playing an overzealous neighborhood guard, but the film really can't survive on her few successes.
The basic idea for this film is a familiar one (a family get-together that's has disastrous results), but it's not one that has to be dead out-of-the-gate. A simple emphasis on making the comedic situations more slapstick might have been enough to cover up the poorly constructed plot. But it's a sad day for the Writer's Guild when five writers plus three story creators can't get a handle on a simple family comedy. The Cookout is insincere at worst and mildly funny at best. Despite its short running time, the film is really not worth the effort you'd have to make to laugh at the bevy of unimpressive jokes.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.