I can’t get my ahead around Bamboozled. It has some of the funniest scenes ever in a movie. Spike Lee shows us that he can really work a camera. Damon Wayans and Michael Rapaport are both gifted comedic actors and their delivery is spot on. In fact, Bamboozled has some of the finest editing I have seen in a movie in quite some time. Every scene is sharp and crisp. And Jada Pinkett Smith is SO hot in this movie. Then, why didn’t I like this movie more? The problem with Bamboozled is that the story is neither believable nor compelling.

The story is that Pierre Delacroix, a black TV writer, is pushed by his boss Mr. Dunwitty (Rapaport) to write darker material. Dunwitty wants shows with “real niggas” in them who will “keep it real”. Delacroix (Wayans) decides to get himself fired by writing the most offensive show he can think of – a turn of the century blackface minstrel show set in a watermelon patch and starring a tap dancer. Which is really funny. Until we see the actual show. Which is really sad. Lee does a good job of hitting us over the head with the fact that minstrel shows were horribly cruel and racist. The metaphor I believe he is trying to get across is that contemporary black folk are still acting like buffoons in order to make money and find fame. As if Jay-Z wasn’t enough proof. Still, Lee obviously did his homework, because at one point when the “house nigger” was auditioning for the show, my roommate walked by and said, “He’s wearing a Snoop Suit.” Anyhow the show gets produced and it quickly becomes such a hit that white people everywhere are putting on blackface.

In Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller wrote, “It takes a Jew to really hate a Jew.” I am going to apply the same logic to Spike Lee. While the movie might have started out a satire, it eventually devolved into a giant hate fest. There is no quarter and no resolution. Three of the principal characters get murdered at the end for no other reason I’m sure than Lee trying to point out the stupidity and pointlessness of black on black crime. There is also a montage at the end where we see clip after clip of minstrel film and cartoon footage. If Lee’s intention was to nauseate me, then he did well. The scene I am speaking of is very reminiscent of the atom bomb montage at the end of Dr. Strangelove. Except that Kubrik took the most horrifying thing in the world and made it light hearted. Lee chose just to be upsetting, rather than creative. Unfortunately for Lee, most people feel exactly the way he does about images of that nature. The sleeper Ghost World deals with this topic and that sort of imagery in a much more effective, modern and relevant manner.

There is nothing wrong with a movie containing a social or political message. The above mentioned Dr. Strangelove being an example of just that and one of the finest movies ever made. Bamboozled bogs itself down by trying to be all message. You can’t root for or get into any of the characters, because you are not allowed to forget that you are watching an after school special. Hell, Lee doesn’t even allow you to breathe. Again, all message, all the time. Long stretches exist in Dr. Strangelove where we forget about the anti-nuke position and fall in love with the characters. They become interesting and relevant to us; they stick with us. Who can ever forget General Buck Turgidson screaming about the big board? And I ask you, in the long run, which film is the more effective message?

NOTE: The sound is horrible in Bamboozled. Often, and including the opening monologue, the background music drowns out what the characters are saying. Worse still is when ever someone is speaking into a microphone. I don’t know what happened, but the dialogue becomes absolutely unintelligible. Paul Mooney, the funniest man alive, has a cameo as Delacroix’s Dad. He is performing at a nightclub, and for the life of me, I can only understand 25% of what he is saying. I watched the movie twice with the same results. My friend watched it with me the second time, and she couldn’t understand anything either. And it is not just that one scene. Hopefully, that is something that can be fixed down the road. Perhaps if the sound had been better, I would have liked the movie more.

DVD Extras

There are about ten deleted scenes and some commentary. Nothing mind blowing.

Ruthless Ratings

  • Film, Overall – 6
  • Sound – 0
  • DVD Extras – 4
  • Story – 4
  • Acting – 8
  • Direction – 9

Ruthless Reviews Special Ratings

  • Number of times movie was paused to do something else – Fell asleep the first time I watched it. Saw it again with much better results.
  • Number of times you found yourself enjoying the movie – About every other scene.
  • Number of times you wished you had taken that screenwriting class – I hope I am never this angry at everybody.
  • Number of times the oppressive soundtrack made you reach for your knife – Like I said above, the sound is just horrible. Watch the scene where the Mau Mau’s are discussing their plans for world domination. I bet you a bottle of malt liquor you can’t understand a God damned thing.
  • Number of times you imagined the director snickering to himself – In this case, I can picture Spike sitting around with voodoo dolls, jamming pins into their eyes, blood smeared about his mouth.
  • Number of times you realized how talented Spike Lee is as a film maker – 25
  • Number of times you wished that somebody else had helped him out with the script – 26
About Jonny Lieberman

Jonny was the site’s co-founder and helped carry the place in the early years. There was a falling out with Erich and he left the site for good, but a lot of his reviews live on. He has moved on to a successful career writing about cars. Look him up.