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The Cookout
2004 - PG-13 - 90 Mins.
Director: Lance Rivera
Producer: Queen Latifah, Otis Best
Written By: Laurie Turner, Ramsey Gbelawoe, Jeffrey Brian Holmes
Starring: Quran Pender, Frankie Faison, Jenifer Lewis, Danny Glover, Farrah Fawcett, Queen Latifah
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site: www.thecookoutmovie.com
   

Back up people or else!
Todd Anderson (Quran Pender) has recently graduated from Rutgers University and finds himself a top NBA lottery pick by his home state of New Jersey. His parents, Jojo (Frankie Faison) and Lady Em (Jenifer Lewis), are understandably ecstatic and worried all at the same time. They wish the best for their son while also fearing that his newfound wealth will make him forget where he came from. Imagine their chagrin when he purchases a huge mansion in Garden Estates, a predominantly white neighborhood. His girlfriend, Brittany (Meagan Good) doesn’t care where he lives; she just wants some of his money. Meanwhile, old friends, also upset at Todd’s decision to abandon his roots, take the opportunity to go and heckle him; for they also want a piece of his wealth. Not to mention the neighbors (Farrah Fawcett, Danny Glover) who despise the “hoodlums” encroaching on their way of life.

Everything comes to a head when Todd decides to hold a family cookout as a way of celebrating. Needless to say, problems arise between the rich and the poor, including the arrival of an overzealous security guard (Queen Latifah) who really just wants to be a police officer. Filled to the brim with subplots and one-dimensional caricatures, ‘The Cookout’ is one laborious comedy.

It is rather obvious right from the beginning that ‘The Cookout’ aspires to be an outdoor version of ‘Barbershop’, what, with the inclusion of topical issues of race and other similar subjects, the problem is that, unlike its spiritual predecessor, ‘The Cookout’ is underdeveloped to the point of malnourishment and lacks any sort of constant flow to the proceedings, not to mention a dumbfounding directorial style by debut filmmaker Lance Rivera that sucks the energy right out of the film.

Rivera films the exploits in a haphazard manner that borders on downright amateurish. Scenes are constantly poorly lit, even to the point where it is difficult to discern just what time of day it is supposed to be. He also fails to build up the jokes to where there is a natural arc: a set-up and a payoff. Instead, all the jokes skip right to the payoff. Perhaps, the screenplay, credited to three different scribes with additional rewrites done by both Rivera and producer Queen Latifah, is also to blame. Not only that, the film appears to have suffered from severe post production hijinks in order to achieve the more marketable PG-13 rating.

Lackluster performances across the board don’t do anything to help matters. Pender is just about as uncharismatic a lead as one could expect in a major motion picture; emoting only when absolutely necessary and unconvincingly at that. Faison and Lewis play their underwritten roles to the hilt; the end result of which is little to no effect. As an uppity couple, Glover and Fawcett are obnoxious to the point of annoyance. Latifah meanwhile, makes a glorified cameo appearance, just long enough to also get on one’s nerves with her pratfalling security guard persona.

‘The Cookout’ is the rare film that is both underwritten and overstuffed. It tries to compensate for having one note characters by filling the screen with hoards of them.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

 
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