We the Party Reviews
Van Peebles stars as a teacher and the father of one of the young leads (played by his own son, Mandela Van Peebles), and the film operates as a rallying cry to a youth who seem certain that they can only achieve 'greatness' through the unlikely means of fame (acting, sports, politics, arbitrary wealth, etc). The platitudes are a bit on-the-nose (Van Peebles opens the film with a thoughtful lecture about how consumerism is fueled by society's dissatisfaction over their lot in life), although their accuracy and wisdom somewhat makes up for their pontificating nature. The rest of the kids are relative novices, although their acting improves a bit as the film goes on (no, I don't know if the film was shot in chronological order) and the various story threads come into focus.
The film is peppered with well-known adult actors who give the film a certain credibility, including a surprisingly intimidating Snoop Dog as rapper YG, nĂ (C) Kennan Jackson's criminally-inclined older brother. Also adding support are Michael Jai White and Tommy Lister. A documentary project by several of the students allows the film to highlight various tales of social woe and/or injustice, which gives the film the majority of its tension and dramatic oomph (along with the second-half conflict that I won't reveal here). It's clear that Van Peebles's heart lies in its moments of introspection and drama, even as his presentation of the more informal socialization feels unquestionably authentic. And it's no small thing for a 55-year old filmmaker to so credibly capture today's youth in a fashion that feels authentic and not the least bit patronizing or strainingly 'hip'.
But in the end, We the Party is a small picture but not one without merit, and one that builds and improves as it goes on. It's not a great film, but it's a good film with worthwhile ideas. It's certainly the very definition of a noble and moral enterprise, with its somewhat heavy-handed focus on education and selfless accomplishment being noteworthy in a time when both once-bedrock values are under siege. Frankly, the film is so overtly good-hearted and moral that I wish Van Peebles had found a way to keep the film's content out of the realm of its R-rating, as it would arguably do most good as an entertainment for younger audiences (keeping the film in PG-13 territory would also limit the film's occasional dips into needless vulgarity). But it's a compelling bit of nourishing entertainment that barely passes muster through its noble intentions and its preaching of a philosophy that I happen to agree with. I can only hope that this small-scale film with its token release will reach more than just the already converted.
Great casting!... a fun mix of fresh talent and familiar faces! The New Boyz, Snoop, Tiny, Salli Richardson-Whitfield... er'body... Just a fun group to watch.
Just to keep it real, I thought the young men's horniness may have been a little over-the-top, to the point of being a bit degrading for men... the portrayal was one, where clearly young men need to think about how much power men give to women. And on the flip the female lead in particular seemed to be very ideal, almost superhuman...very empowered... and in control, a bit too secure... just a bit much for 16/17 year old.
But overall a good, fresh take on a familiar genre!
I doubt this will win any awards, but the message is solid and it's a fun movie. It's definitely for a younger audience, but for what it is, it's great.
At times the dialogue can be a little preachy and the action predictable, but somehow I was perpetually interested in what was going on. The pressures of high school are something everyone can relate to as is the partying life of a high-schooler...although these folks do it much better than I ever did.
It's not hard to have fun at this movie.
Mario Van Peebles makes lots of good points in his film, and most of these points come from his character - which, after his Q&A at the end of the film, seems to represent him pretty well. He acknowledges that most people in life are interested in having big fancy houses an slick shiny cars, but, in reality, none of that stuff really matters when you should be taking care of yourself with the necessities until you're in a good position (if ever). He discusses how it doesn't matter if someone is smart, if they are lazy with their intelligence they're as good as a dumb person. These are all very good points and points I agree with - and they're all brought up in the film, along with other messages.
The only issue I have with this film is the writing and a certain level of predictability. Sure there were a few surprises, which is more than I can say for other films of this genre, but when it came to relationships and dilemmas pertaining to that nature it was pretty easy to tell what would happen.
The performances from Van Peebles kids (all of whom are also "MVPs" like Mario Van Peebles and Melvin Van Peebles) are fantastic. Even with the awkward dialogue, they have fun with it and contribute to the film in a great way.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend this film, and I would even implore Van Peebles to consider re-editting it due to some choppiness, but it does have it's moments that shine and the messages are no less than important.