Long ago, it was considered funny for white people to dress up in black face and play exaggerated versions of black people. Okay, it wasn't funny to everybody - particularly blacks - and eventually disappeared in lieu of common sense, improved race relations and what would later become known as political correctness.
As "black culture" started to hit the mainstream, white suburban kids eventually started adopting the dress, slang and other attributes of stereotypical urban life, namely that of hip-hop and rap performers. At or around the same time, those who make movies decided it would be funny if the historical tables were turned and by having whites making fools of themselves while trying to emulate that look and/or style. While briefly amusing, such scenes and even entire films revolving around that gag eventually were run into the ground.
Arriving way too late to the party is "Malibu's Most Wanted," where a decidedly un-hip but privileged Malibu kid behaves in such a way. Part spoof, part goofy comedy, the film's signature element is that the protagonist is an embarrassment and potential political nightmare to his politician father. Thus, in true movie style, the campaign team decides to pay some actors to pose as urban gangsters who will literally "scare the black out of him."
Since the actors don't know the first thing about behaving that way, and due to the fact that nobody realizes that's just the way the kid truly is, things don't work as planned and all sorts of comedic complications then ensue.
Or at least that's how it's supposed to work in theory. Written by newcomer Nick Swardson and the fellows - Fax Bahr & Adam Small - who unleashed the Pauley Shore films "Son in Law" and "In the Army Now" on the unsuspecting masses -- the film is a one-note comedy, and a sadly sour one at that.
The whole thing reeks of one of those lame "Saturday Night Live" skits that get blown up into an embarrassing full-length feature. This time around, however, it's not Lorne Michaels and his SNL cast who are responsible, but rather actor Jamie Kennedy (the "Scream" films) who helped co-write the script. Now host of "JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment," the performer has created a character that's as flat and unfunny as the script that hangs around his neck like a lead albatross.
Unlike Mike Myers or Eddie Griffin in Austin Powers and Undercover Brother modes respectively, Kennedy wears out his welcome, or at least that of his character, in the first few minutes of witnessing him. To be fair, there are a few funny lines about living the "black urban life" in Malibu, along with some briefly amusing characteristics.
For the rest of the 80-some minute movie, however, the character quickly wears thin and some becomes both repetitive and annoying. The fact that he's really that way rather than just posing is presumably supposed to endear him to us, but the script and direction by John Whitesell ("See Spot Run" "Calendar Girl") fall flat.
Interspersing a handful of fantasy moments with the stereotypical but not particularly amusing views of such urban characters, the broadly played film flounders about from one "comedy" moment to the next. To make matters worse, it's not particularly difficult to see the various complications and developments, such as they are, long before they arrive.
The potential in the film - however limited it might be -- lies with the hired actor characters played by Taye Diggs ("Basic," "Chicago") and Anthony Anderson ("Kangaroo Jack," "Barbershop") who are supposed to scare "B-Rad" (the hip moniker for Brad). Alas, that too is just a flat, one-note plot element that's played over and again to the point of annoyance.
Regina Hall ("Paid in Full," "Love & Basketball") appears as the standard-issue love interest, while Damien Dante Wayans ("Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood," "Major Payne") plays the tough hood. Kal Penn ("National Lampoon's Van Wilder"), Nick Swardson (the writer) and Keili Lefkovitz (making her feature debut) appear as the best friends, but are mostly absent until the finale.
The likes of Blair Underwood ("Full Frontal," "Rules of Engagement"), Jeffrey Tambor ("Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show") and Ryan O'Neal ("Love Story," "Paper Moon") as the white-bread candidate can't do much with their roles.
If you want to see a wittier and more interesting mix of race and politics, check out "Bulworth." Heck, even Steve Martin and Eugene Levy in the disappointing but clearly not as bad "Bringing Down the House" are far more entertaining doing the culture clash thing than everything that's on display here.
Possibly acceptable as a three or four minute skit, the film simply isn't funny and can't sustain its one-note premise for the duration without appearing winded and ill-prepared for the duration and/or endeavor. "Malibu's Most Wanted" rates as a 2 out of 10.