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Bamboozled is too heavy-handed in its satire and comes across as more messy and overwrought than biting.
All Critics (97)
| Top Critics (36)
| Fresh (47)
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| DVD (7)
Spike Lee's sharp, riotous satire, from 2000, zeroes in on the grotesque misrepresentation of blacks in American media-and their underrepresentation in the corporate offices that control it.
This is basically sloppy, all-over-the-map filmmaking with few hints of self-criticism and few genuine laughs.
If Mr. Lee meant to bring back blackface entertainment as a metaphor for the current black performers he finds obnoxious, he has miscalculated.
Lee's satire on American TV is an intriguing failure.
At his best, Spike Lee is too brave to be subtle.
You won't look at race onscreen the same way again.
Provocative Spike Lee movie for older teens.
Lee, in his least commercial film, shoots for controversy but loses focus.
Spike Lee's shotgun attack on the treatment of blacks in television and the blurring of image and identity is a brilliant rant that digresses into repetitive sermonizing.
A particularly painful mess, because it begins so well and has such promise.
...where most of us in his audience will lean forward to hear a whisper, we turn away from a shout. Oh, how Bamboozled shouts.
The director's new masterpiece is a summation of nearly everything he has learned as a filmmaker, and about black culture, but he doesn't feel the need to beat the audience over the head for each lesson he's trying to impart.
For this feature, respected writer/director Spike Lee decided to make a satire concerns race in American culture, specifically television, and how racist imagery of the past still has an effect in the present day.
The broad idea is a fine one, and this is a topic that should be addressed in a film. The major issue I have with this production is in its execution, and a lot of the choices Spike makes.
The story concerns a well to do African American at a tv station who is fed up with his job, and decides to pitch a show idea so offensive, there's no way it will be accepted and air,, and he will be fired. It all backfires on him though, and the resulting fallout has a curious effect on him, the show's cast, other employees, and the viewing audience.
The basic concept is nothugn really new, and the film owes a big debt to Network (which it makes great reference to). No, what bugs me is how the story is told. It is shot on video, giving it a documentary feel, which is okay, but it really makes everything look grainy and cheap, and the impact is lessened as a result. Also, to cause controversy, out Protagonist decides to have the program be a minstrel show set in a watermelon patch.
I get the idea of satire, and purposely playing up buffonery, but come on, there's no way to incorrectly guess how something like this would be received. It's an out of touch and dated reference point, and sure, the film is probably eye opening for a number of people, but it seems like Lee misjudges how many people aren't already aware of the racial issues he brings up. Becuase it seems like he treats the viewers as totally ignorant, this is one of the most unsubtle, heavy handed, overbearing, and exhaustingly repetitive films out there.
It's overlong, and the point gets hammered home really early on, so all the rest is just continual rehashing, and beating the message into people's heads with a sledgehammer. Yes, there are some really great points that are made, and there are some excellent sequences, but this is just way too overblown and tiresome.
It's still a fascinating film, and will make you think, but this really needed to be written and edited a lot better. It does feature some really good performances however, even though Wayans and Rapaport do get a tad obnoxious at times.
All in all, a noble effort, but a bit too flawed for me to really recommend. It does have a great set up though, so it's a shame that the execution isn't as strong or consistent.
At this point in Spike Lee's career, it's almost at a point where enough is enough. His heavy handed messages about racism are sometimes very well done and effective, but other times they are bland and as ridiculous as this. The only thing that's really interesting about this is the audience reaction to blackface, that's about it. Everything else presented in this has been done and done better. The really bad comical undertones to the movie only adds to its pointless nature because in the end it all just feels like a bad joke.
Spike Lee delivers an intentionally shocking and racist film that winds up being shockingly racist in unintentional ways. Damon Wayans plays either an erudite and well-spoken television producer, or an erudite and well-spoken muppet, judging by his accent. He works for an exploitive tv network that's not interested in portraying realistic, positive images of african-americans, so he one day decides to create a show so offensive and over-the-top racist that the network executives will be swarmed with public outcry. His plans misfire when his "minstrel show for the new millenium" becomes a mega-hit, inspiring fans all over the country to don blackface call themselves "real" (n-words). Thrown into the mix is Wayan's personal assistant (Jada Pinkett) and her brother Mau Mau, a militant gangsta rapper, whose african pride seems a little misguided, to say the least. The film certainly starts off amusing, and has great intentions, but somewhere along the line, it loses it's point and focus. Jada Pinkett Smith is either a terrible actress or her character is just blandly awful (probably a little bit of both). I can't imagine this blackface minstrel show would ever be a hit series, as it's simply not very funny in any way (and even for a show about blackface, it goes into cheap and lazy territory). There is a fair point one could make about the idiocy of modern television effectively being just an updated version of a minstrel show, but Bamboozled doesn't go anywhere near that territory. By the end of the film (and I don't feel bad in revealing some spoilers), the film delves into wholly unrealistic gunplay and violence. It's incongruous and cheapens whatever valid points it was trying to make. Bamboozled winds up being a whole lot of unoriginal ideas slapped onto an interesting concept. In fact, the ending material sort of justifies the minstrel shows and demonstrates not a rising above that sort of material, but showing black culture as a whole has denegrated itself still further. Go rent the vastly superior C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) for a truly satirical look at America's attitude towards race.
Spike Lee's film is certainly a fascinating premise. A satire of network television's pitfalls and prejudices, a peek into the way blacks have been represented historically in the media, and the ways in which they have sought to redress the cultural balance (there's a neat look at an extremist hip-hop collective) - it's certainly the nucleus for a meaty and much needed discourse.
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