Pierce delacroix a young african-american network executive whose boss orders him to come up with a hot trend-setting urban hit. With the help of his assistant sloan a homeless tap dancer and his sidekick delacroix creates... more » mantan the new millenium minstrel show. Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 05/10/2005 Starring: Damon Wayans Jada Pinkett-smith Run time: 136 minutes Rating: R Director: Spike Lee« less
Nicholas Carroll | Portland OR United States | 05/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I finally saw this film recently after reading an editorial that mentioned this film in regards to how the racial stereotypes perpetuated in Minstrel shows continue this day in any rap video you see. This film is a much needed eye opener, a satire with a deeper message. The use of satire is often necessary to bring to people's attention the underlying truth that most cannot accept at face value. This film perfectly draws out on our society's racism and race relations.
A few years ago, I remember coming across an advertisement for a Minstrel show that my church congregation put on in the 1950s. Considering that there are few African American members of my church to begin with, it was a complete shock to me who these nice elderly people could do such a thing. With "Bamboozled", Spike concludes the film with an excellent montage of images from movies, TV shows, cartoons that all featured the worst stereotypes of African Americans as bug-eyed, big lipped, ants-in-pants, cannibalistic animals, who sang and dance, shucked and jived, all kinds of terrible traits. These images were taken from Shirley Temple movies and films with Bing Crosby, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland. It was an eye opener. Even Warner Brothers cartoons of my recent youth (1970s) contained racist images in the guise of Bugs Bunny in some of his antics.
I've been meaning to watch all of Spike Lee's films someday, as I like the statements he tries to make in his films. He has amassed an interesting body of work, though some were more successful than others. For me, "Malcolm X" and "Do The Right Thing" are his best works, and this one would be third, ahead of "Jungle Fever". I loved the performance of Michael Rapaport as the cool talking head honcho of CNS Television, who has an expressive way with words and sounds more "black" than the faux intellectual nerdiness of Damon Wayans, who plays Pierre Delacroix, which we learn in the film is a pretentious name he gives himself to distance himself from an embarrassing past. I also liked Jada Pinkett Smith in this film, as Delacroix's assistant who doesn't agree with the direction he's taking with his show idea.
The premise is that Delacroix can't quit his job, so he comes up with a plan to make the most racist show he can imagine that will cause CNS to fire him. He proposed a new Minstrel Show for the New Millennium, featuring two African American street performers (the excellent Tommy Davidson and Savion Glover) in black face make up. Rapaport's Mr. Dunwitty loves the idea and claims that the show would be even bigger than "Friends". They shoot the pilot show to an unsuspecting audience who don't know if its okay to laugh. Tommy Davidson plays "Sleep n Eat" and Savion Glover plays Mantan, the tap dancing idiot. Their variety show features schtick anyone who has ever seen "Hee Haw" would be familiar with...lame brain one liners, idiot people, and exaggerated stereotypes.
The satire is that the studio execs love the show and pick up 12 episodes, and when it airs on TV, it becomes an instant smash show. Soon audiences are showing up each week in black face and proclaiming their pride in being "n------", even though nearly all of them are white. The film is so over the top, poking fun at our double standards (how many claim not to be racist because they listen to rap or watch basketball). The truth is...we expect African Americans to entertain us (in music and sports), but beyond that, we don't take them seriously as people. True, the hip hop community is quite influential in the language and style of our advertising and pop culture, but how many African American CEOs and Mayors and Governors and Senators are there? In the financial matters of our country, we still impose a glass ceiling on anyone not part of the white male demographic...so what is our minstrel show of today? Spike Lee made a point in the commentary track that you don't have to wear black face to have a minstrel show. It goes on without people being aware of it. For that reason, I'm grateful he made this film. Just seeing the disgusting collectibles from the past century (such as the "jolly n----- bank" or the Aunt Jemima dolls) is a reminder of our racist past. We mustn't forget even as we move on to greater inclusion and burying old stereotypes, allowing people to be who they are regardless of race.
I want to give this film 5 stars, but because the film veers into a strange tangent for about 10 minutes near the end of the film, I simply thought Spike Lee got lazy with how he wanted to end this film. It was a cheap and lazy way to go, even though he explains his reason on the commentary track. I disagree, because if done right, his ending would have punched up the meaning of this film. I'm at least glad that the montage at the end saved this film on a somewhat redeeming note. If anything, this film serves as a reminder of our recent history and how overt racism really was. The film succeeds as an awakening to the forms into which the Minstrel Show of the last century has morphed into something a little bit different, but accomplishing the same devastating effect. I know I'll never be able to look at another rap video in the same way again. Thank you Spike Lee!"
A Spike Lee tragedy full of symbolism and metaphor
Glynn Clapsaddle | San Diego, CA United States | 11/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have recently decided to finally expose myself to the work of Spike Lee, putting his entire body of work at the top of my DVD rental list, and Bamboozled was the first one to arrive. I must say that I can not wait for the rest of them to come in. The only negative aspect of this film is something that several others have pointed out...the voice of Damon Wayans' character. Through the film it did begin to grate on me as I heard it, seeming too forced and unreal. However, Wayans did a solid job of portraying a man who, having made a horrible mistake of judgement, slips into denial and ends up rationalizing the error to himself until he believes he actually did the right thing. The supporting cast was also very strong, Savion Glover is a very talented tap dancer, and Tommy Davidson shows that he is more than just a comedic actor. Michael Rappaport pulled off what was a very dangerous role, as it is so easy to play the role of a white man trying to be black and turn it into a cliche of ignorance. Instead, he was very believable and very tasteless and rude, a flawless performance. As for Spike Lee? I thoroughly enjoyed his direction. The graininess and edginess of the quality of the cinematography is a beautiful character of his work. It has a distinct style that can be identified as his work immediately. He wrote a very powerful story, showing several sides of the struggle of the black man trying to be successful in this day and age. Sometimes, it seems that the only way to succeed is to sell out in one way or another. In the end, the deaths are metaphorical, symbolizing the cultural death of those who sell out, that they are eventually ostracized from both the white and the black sides of society. The story is a Shakespeare-style tragedy, rife with internal conflicts, a main character with a fatal flaw, and an ending with permanent finality. There really is not a hero, nor is there a villian, as none of the characters are one-dimensional. Their conflicts are never black and white, no pun intended. They are complex problems created from the characters' choices and their circumstances. It is easy to see how their mistakes are made. We can believe that we would not have made the same choices if we were in their position, but that is easy to say from the outside looking in. In this film, Lee told the tale of several real and human characters, presenting a struggle that he sees every day. He withheld judgement of these people, and did not force his opinion on the viewer, allowing the viewer to decide who was right and who was wrong. I look forward to seeing the rest of his work."
"Is you is, or is you ain't? . . ."
Found Highways | Las Vegas | 06/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Spike Lee's Bamboozled owes a lot to Paddy Chayefsky's story Network (1976), which owes a lot to writer Budd Schulberg's A Face in the Crowd (1957). All three movies are about TV personalities who become the personification of social or political movements.
In Bamboozled, Spike Lee makes his debt to Network explicit by having a black TV announcer tell his TV audience to go to their windows, open them, and shout to the world that they're "not going to take it any more," just as Peter Finch's Edward R. Murrow-type news anchor did in Network. Then the star of the TV show in Bamboozled collapses, like the news anchor.
In Bamboozled, the black dancer who stars in The New Millennium Minstrel Show loses his identity and becomes a stereotype. The network changes his name from Manray (an artist, like Man Ray?) to Mantan (after Mantan Moreland, the bulgy-eyed comic in old movies).
When Network first came out, everything it predicted was outrageous, but it's all reality (or reality TV) now. TV news departments are no longer subsidized by entertainment divisions - - news departments ARE entertainment divisions, or more precisely, news IS entertainment. Sibyl the Soothsayer in Network has become John Edward, crossing over between the spirit world and a country that finds superstition more comforting than science. (We're desperate not to be Left Behind.)
In an interview in Cineaste magazine (vol. XXVI, no. 2, 2001), Spike Lee tells why he dedicated Bamboozled to Budd Schulberg, the writer of A Face in the Crowd, the movie that made Andy Griffith a star.
Andy Griffith is like John Wayne. He only played one character on film and TV - - himself - - and Griffith's Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd is like Wayne's Ethan Edwards in The Searchers. The cruelty in Ethan Edwards and Lonesome Rhodes is also there in every other character the two actors ever played, but we didn't want to see it. And after his success in A Face in the Crowd, Griffith never again dared showed the kind of contempt that Sheriff Andy Taylor must have had for the citizens of Mayberry. Giving us a glimpse of the monster is one thing, but Griffith knew America couldn't stand to see him every week. Exasperation with with Barney was as bad as it got.
So we got the phony Mayberry smile - - a kind of whiteface, another mask.
That issue of Cineaste is worth tracking down for articles on the reaction to Bamboozled and for Spike Lee's interview. Lee talks about what he calls the "magical n****r" in movies, "magical Negroes who appear out of nowhere" and use their powers "for the benefit of the white stars of the movies." Films like The Green Mile, The Family Man, and The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Now we're all tuned in to the Network and it's picked out A Face in the Crowd for us.
Everybody likes him when they meet him (God knows why, since he's such an obvious bully to people around him). He used to drink too much and got into some trouble, but he's turned his life around and, with the support of friends with money, he's become a national leader. The people who warn he's a fascist are just left-wingers "out of the mainstream" who hate America anyway.
Forget the Matrix, the United States has become Network. No definite article is needed to describe the all-embracing global corporate entity that is the military-industrial-entertainment complex. (Ned Beatty tries to explain this epiphany to Peter Finch at the end of the movie Network.)
And the United States is on its way to becoming the minstrel show Spike Lee shows in Bamboozled.
In Bamboozled, white people, Hispanics, and blacks all wear blackface to be in the audience and all answer yes to the question, "Is you a n****r?" Maybe the non-blacks are just "appropriating" a culture they have no right to, but it might be a good thing for people to realize they all have something in common.
Everybody's being bamboozled.
Good concept, but heavy-handed execution
H. F. Gibbard | Dark City, USA | 05/04/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Spike Lee's Bamboozled has a powerful premise: a Harvard-educated African-American television executive named Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans), frustrated at his inability to get serious projects about African-Americans placed on television, pitches the ridiculous concept of a revived minstrel show to his white bosses. Thing is, his idea backfires because the bosses LOVE the idea. So does the audience. It becomes clear that Delacroix has underestimated the latent racism and bad taste of the American public. If this satirical premise sounds familiar, it's because it builds on one of the best comedies of all time: The Producers, Mel Brooks' first big hit. Remember that film? The producers tried to make a flop by staging a ridiculously grotesque musical called Springtime for Hitler, but the audience loved it. But whereas The Producers was fairly light-hearted all the way through, the last third of so of Bamboozled turns way too heavy and ultimately pummels the viewer with a point that's already been made, again and again. Spike Lee seems to think his film deserves a kidnapping and mass murder to make its point, which I think is a huge mistake.Not to say Bamboozled had to be just funny all the way through. Good satire hurts even while you're laughing. And there are some truly inspired, thought-provoking moments in this movie. Watching the African-American actors struggle with their consciences while donning the blackface; seeing how white individuals struggle to relate to black people, without full awareness of either their own inherent racism or the social structures that reinforce it: these things are great, and Spike Lee portrays them better than anyone else could. I also liked the montage of blackface scenes from traditional American movies at the end, that shows better than anything the disrespect African Americans faced until recently. But the minstrel show itself is neither funny nor particularly revealing, and the violent subplot doesn't really belong in the film at all. Spike Lee would have done better, I think, to shorten the film and leave out the gang-related subplot."
Not racist, but real
The Fancy One | Westchester County, NY | 12/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a homage to such Hollywood movie classics as "A Face In The Crowd", the original version of "The Producers" and "Network", I understand completely what message Spike Lee conveyed in this film, and for the most part, I agree with it. He brings up the uncomfortable subject of negative images of blacks in television, past and present, and just how the media seeks to capitalize on it. The film centers on the uptight, upwardly-mobile Damon Wayans character, Pierre Delacroix (aka Peerless Dothan), who is a successful black television executive that has completely lost touch with his roots. After being berated by his boss and being threatened being fired if he fails to come up with a hit TV show, on purpose, he creates an outrageously offensive and stereotypical TV minstrel show with actors, dancers and musicians all in blackface as a joke, in order to break his contract with the network he works for - all of this so he won't have to worry about being sued if he quits. The show is supposed to initially mock the negative images of blacks, and to make people angry enough to have it pulled from the air, and get Pierre fired - but to his surprize, it turns out to be a massive hit.
Pierre is at first perplexed at this but then revels in the fact that this was something that was his creation - and having a moralistic viewpoint doesn't seem to matter much any more. After receiving all types of accolades, success eventually goes to his head. From then on, Pierre totally sells out and doesn't seem to have any remorse about exploiting the sad history of blacks in America. In fact, he thinks it's rather amusing...he basically puts out the message that we need to "get over" these things, these images, and take a humorous look at them, and move on. (Imagine telling the Jews to "get over" the Holocaust, take a humorous look at it and move on. I guess someone tried to do that years ago - remember the TV show "Hogan's Heroes"? Still didn't make the Holocaust or concentration camps very funny to Jews.) Pierre's getting paid and all is good in his world...until he gets a wake up call later in the film.
Back in the day, "Amos and Andy", Stepin Fetchit, Buckwheat, and racist films like D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" perpetuated American blacks in the worst possible way. In fact, the last few minutes of the film shows clips from these films and these characters, and this is powerful in itself. Those images have been permanently burned into the minds of people all over the world, and we are still feeling the effects today. There are folks in the world whose only view of the behaviors and images of black people come through what they see in the media, and what they see does NOT represent black folk as a whole!
One of many points that Spike is making in "Bamboozled" is that the negative imagery of those characters are not just limited to those performers of yesteryear, but it has carried over to this generation as well -- specifically, some of those entertainers in today's hip-hop community, who are nothing more than modern-day minstrel performers because they are perpetuating blacks in their most negative light, and unfortunately this is what sells -- this is what is marketable. Look at almost any hip-hop video on BET and you will see a modern-day minstrel show...all that's missing are the performers in blackface. The psuedo-revolutionary, wannabe Public Enemy-like "Maus-Maus" in the film represent that demographic. In addition to saying we all love watermelon and fried chicken and we are an oversexed race who loves to sing and dance, and we are all slow-witted and lazy - now to add to these stereotypes are that we are all obsessed with crime, substance abuse and material things. Worse of all is that a lot of these performers don't even realize how detrimental the images are. Those who do are a lot like the Pierre character: they simply don't care. It's all about making a buck to them. The actors from back in the day didn't have a choice about the roles they were regulated to in the movies - but today, actors, singers, rappers AND yes, producers and directors, DO have a choice as to the kind of images they put out there for the world to see, and unfortunately, a lot of them make the wrong decision.
I enjoyed all the actors' performances. Damon as Pierre was okay, but I could have done without him trying TOO hard to sound like a man who is obviously educated -- or someone who "talks white", as some would say. Jada Pinkett Smith is more down to earth and is a welcome counterbalance to Damon's role - however, I had a hard time trying to figure out whether or not she was on Pierre's side until about three-quarters of the way through the film. Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson (in a surprisingly good dramatic role) are equally convincing in their roles as the blackface-wearing stars of Pierre's show. In the beginning, the two formally homeless street entertainers are thrilled to finally have someone take notice of their talents. Towards the end of the film, however, they wake up and smell the coffee and begin to realize the negativity of what they are doing. Michael Rapaport's character as Thomas Dunwitty, the head honcho at the network that Pierre works for is REALLY annoying, but it's a role that is amazingly effective. He's the so-called cool white guy who is thinks he is "down" with the black community because he has a black wife, and feels he can say anything about blacks and get a "ghetto pass", but he reveals himself to be just as racist as any member of the KKK. Paul Mooney was excellent in his all-too-short role as Pierre's father. Cameo appearances include Matthew Modine, Mira Sorvino, Johnny Cochran, Rev. Al Sharpton and the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, from the successful '90s trio, TLC.
"Bamboozled" was an excellent title, because just about EVERYONE in this movie is fooled into thinking this show is one thing, when in reality, it's something else. I feel that Spike Lee can still make relevant films about race, and this film certainly is one of them. But it seemed to me that he really did not know how to wrap up the movie, and it starts to unravel during the last half hour or so, so that's why I docked it one star. For me, "Bamboozled" could be called one of Spike's greatest films if it weren't for how it ended. But overall, I respect him for taking on a subject like this. Yes, it's harsh, over the top, and right in your face. But it's not racist. It's reality, and I guess that what makes so many people uncomfortable. Well done, Spike!!
Sidenote: Another film on this very same topic is "Dancing In September" - definitely a must-see if you like "Bamboozled"."