Impulse Buy Theater - Black Dynamite
For a parody to be truly effective, it has to love its target. Take Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, for instance. The numerous call outs to Universal’s original Frankenstein as well as many of their other monster films of the 30’s showed that not only could Brooks poke fun, but pay homage as well. This is where so many parody films fail…and fail miserably. Take the Scary Movie series or its kin such as Epic Movie, Superhero Movie or Meet the Spartans [Please? Yeah, I know, that joke didn’t work in the 30’s when it was about the stand-up’s wife…but still... – Ed.] where really all we’re shown is just a series of jokes about current popular movies loosely woven together in…well, to call it even the thinnest of thin plots would be an insult to extremely thin plots everywhere. The greats, such as the aforementioned Young Frankenstein, Galaxy Quest, Shaun of the Dead and others take the time to do their homework and go for a deeper laugh…not just a barrage of gags. I’m very happy to report that in 2009, another film I feel joined these lofty ranks…Black Dynamite.
Sho nuff Dynamite!
Duh dum dum dum…
[You know you can’t sing…much less sing via text on the internet…right??? – Ed.]
Black Dynamite, brain-child of Michael Jai White, Byron Minns and Scott Sanders, not only lovingly recreates the attitude and feel of blaxpoitation cinema in its heyday, but, as any good parody must, turns the proceedings up to 11…highlighting and heightening its target genre, faults and all.
Grab a taste of what you have to look forward to here:
The story focuses on our Main Man Black Dynamite, Soul Brother #1 [Sorry James Brown! – Ed.] as he tracks down those responsible for killing his little brother, Jimmy. That’s no simple task as each clue reveals another party in this devious plot, from the Black Panthers to the mob, the congress of Pimps to the CIA, the fiendish Dr. Wu all the way up to The Man himself. In that twisted trail, we hit all the core themes of Blaxploitation in its prime, the struggle against Whitey, music, drugs, pimping, action, car chases, guns and, of course, massive amounts of both super-cool and kung-fu…SUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
In conversations about acting, you learn that comedy is downright hard and is certainly serious business. You might be an Oscar-winning dramatic performer, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to pull off a comedic role. Now, certainly no one is going to mistake Michael Jai White for either of those. My experience with him has been mostly limited, from my first exposure to him being in 1997’s Spawn (which I didn’t have much nice to say about it) to various trailers for martial arts action films that went direct to dvd (and direct to WalMart discount bin from there). But…damn. Everything from his presence to comedic timing is just dead on here. Maybe it’s because he’s the originator of the idea. Maybe it’s because both action and comedy depend on split-second timing. [Maybe it’s Maybelline? – Ed.] You see, this all came about because of one Halloween, White decided to have a photo shoot done of himself in 70’s attire and labeled it ‘Black Dynamite’. From there, he and Byron Minns fleshed out the story. But that’s what I’m getting at, not only as an on-screen presence, but the wit, intelligence and the study and execution of Blaxploitation film tropes in the film are second to none. Getting back to his on-screen presence, if you pay attention (and it’s hinted at in the trailer linked to above), Michael Jai White isn’t playing Black Dynamite in this film…he’s playing ‘all-star running back Ferrante Jones’ playing Black Dynamite…so playing a character within a character [COMBOOOO! – Ed.] on top of an action star branching out into comedy? I simply cannot gush about this performance more. I mean, sure, I could, but do you really want to read me getting all that…well…icky? [No, certainly not. – Ed.]
Moving on to other characters, one particular stand out is co-writer Byron Minns’ Bullhorn, very much in the mold of Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolamite. He’s the narrator of the trailer and…well, c’mon. If you don’t love the guy from that narration…well, maybe you’re reading the wrong review. Community activist Gloria played by Sally Richardson Whitfield delves into the obsessively “I can do this without any man” feminist stereotype. Tommy Davidson impresses as Cream Corn, a pimp very much in the vein of Antonio Fargas. Phil Morris as the militant leader…well, thanks to him, whenever I hear the phrase “That, that’s some heavy shit right there,” I…well…I’ll always want to lick something. [Is that something you REALLY need to share on the internet??? – Ed.] Kym Whitley’s Honey Bee unfortunately doesn’t get much time to shine, neither she nor her girls…who are trained in kung-fu, by the way. Lastly, he said in conclusion, I absolutely have to call out Darrel Heath’s Militant #2…shows picture…reading both his lines and stage directions. Just…brilliant.
Another collaborator that adds an invaluable contribution to the movie is Adrian Younge’s music…making this parody truly complete. Sure, it would’ve been enough to just recreate the sound of 70’s soul and funk and leave it at that. But listen closely to the music in the background…it’s narrating the film…giving a completely unnecessary play-by-play of the film…and it’s PERFECT. Hell, I’m going to order the soundtrack just so I can “watch” the movie in my car every morning on the way to work! [Given rush hour traffic, why not just bring the DVD and watch the movie? Won’t really make that much of a difference, will it? Eh, Seattle traffic? – Ed.]
The shame of it is that this film is 7 years old. In that time, sure, Adult Swim has produced 2 seasons of an animated series, and yes, we learned from the Naked Gun movies that sequels are strictly beholden to the law of diminishing returns. But come on, we all have that one joke or funny story that no matter how many times we hear it, sure, we may not piss ourselves to it like we used to [Really? You’re going to bring up the Monty Python and the Holy Grail story now??? Have you no shame sir??? – Ed.] but it’s ALWAYS funny to us. Black Dynamite hits that note for me. And for a second dose of that? Hell yes. While Michael Jai White has not only confirmed that 2 is coming, but, in an interview with vulture.com, said that he’d always envisioned a trilogy. If that’s the case, I can happily say…
SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and hunt this film down. Then watch it. Then watch it again. Repeat as needed.
Buh dum dum dum…
Yeah, that’s gonna get stuck in your head.