ninth symphony films - movie reviews

BABY BOY (2001)

DIRECTOR  -  john singleton

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  130 minutes

RELEASED  -  29 june 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  baby boy

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $16,000,000
baby boy - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from baby boy at

buy the dvd from baby boy at

this is the story of jody, an unemployed young black man, who's been living with his mother for several years.

the role of jody was originally written for tupac shekur.


picture from baby boy

picture from baby boy

picture from baby boy


two out of four possible stars

Baby Boy is a complex dramatic film that succeeds on most levels to teach the audience about the troubles facing urban youth in America and the fact that those youths are not always saints themselves. In one of his first lead roles in a feature film, Tyrese Gibson makes the jump from singer to actor playing ďJody,Ē a black youth who refuses to grow up and take responsibility for his life. Such as the child heís fathered or the job heís supposed to find. His problems are common, and his attitude is one that many mothers can probably identify with.

An impediment on the film though seems to be the running time. At 129 minutes, the film is certainly not egregiously over the "time limit" for a dramatic film, but some of the scenes become too long and/or repetitive in the latter half of the film. The audience understands the relationship between Jody and his mother, potential step-father, his girlfriend, and the mother of his child. And the story sometimes shows more information than the audience needs. Or covers a particular idea or emotion more than once in more than one scene with the same characters. Perhaps if ten or fifteen minutes had been edited from the scenes throughout the entire picture, the progression of the story might have felt faster and less leisurely.

But despite this set-back, the performances are probably what will keep the audienceís attention for the entire picture. In possibly what is the strongest performance of the movie, Candy Ann Brown portrays Jodyís mother, a single woman who has cared for him all her life and is looking to start her life anew with current boyfriend (and potential husband), "Melvin," played by the eloquent Ving Rhames, whose voice alone can inspire dread in just about anybody. What is interesting about Brownís character though is the way she makes Ms. Herron seem so sympathetic.

She is, in essence, throwing her son out of the house to make his own life, so that she can continue with hers. But while this might seem harsh at face value, Ms. Herron seems to have every right to do what she does. And the intrusion of Melvin into the picture makes it quite hard for Jody to hold onto his motherís full attention. One might feel sorry for Jody at first, but because his character is rather irresponsible, itís quite easy want the relationship between his mother and her boyfriend to be successful. And what is rather good about Tyreseís performance is that even through his mistakes, the audience will still feel empathy for his character and will want him to succeed in life.

Director John Singletonís forte is in bringing dynamic and realistic characters to the screen. No matter if the running time on this film is rather long, the characters are still quite engaging and given that the cast is rather large, and that the movie could easily be considered an ensemble piece, making his actors perform well across the board speaks well for Singletonís directing ability. One cannot help but wonder though if the story might have been a little tighter if he had had a writing partner in the scripting process. As both the writer and director, Singleton probably has a better idea of the characters than any person working on the film, but he seems to have been too attached to a few too many scenes.

The story meanders in points, making it rather difficult to understand why the editor during the editing process did not cut out some of the more repetitive scenes. With so much intense drama in the film, some of the scenes run long and cutting some of the dialogue would not have hurt the character development, but would have helped make the story tighter and more cohesive. The film doesnít exactly run off on tangents, but the focus isnít always as clear as it should be. Interestingly though, with the amount of passionate arguing and fighting in the film, the scenes never become melodramatic, thanks to the Singletonís dialogue. He might not know when to say "cut," but in depicting real emotions on the screen, Singleton stands out in the field.

Baby Boy is certainly persistent in its portrayal of black youth in America (this story takes place in Los Angeles), and while the urban experience might not be a familiar one to all audiences, the characters and their feelings are universal. Owing to the powerful ensemble cast, this film is a dramatic success and doesnít shy away from making its characters less than considerate. While it is easy to care for the people in this film, Singleton still makes a strong statement in this film about the overabundance of problems facing his characters (unwed mothers, drugs, unemployment, and jail time, just to name a few) and makes sure the audience gets a realistic portrayal of those difficulties.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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