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"The Original Kings of Comedy"

Directed by Spike Lee. 
Starring Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  8/24/00 


Gordon "The Professional" Stokes--rap encyclopedia, middle school teacher and hard-core Redskins fan--had this to say when I asked him what he thought of the new Spike Lee movie "The Original Kings of Comedy":

"F***in' good stuff!!"

So, I rolled over to the theater last night to catch the flick, and I want to put this as simply as possible:  this is the funniest movie of the year.  Some of you have probably not even heard of this film, so let me give you the skinny.  Over last year and the first half of this year, four comedians--Steve Harvey, DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac--toured the country to perform a two-hour comedy set called the "Kings of Comedy" tour, playing to sold-out audiences all over and raking in almost $40 million, unheard of for a non-musical concert tour.  Spike Lee decided to make a movie out of it, recording a few scenes of the comics in-between performances on the road, and recording the stand-up they performed on the last night of the tour, in Charlotte, North Carolina.  So, this makes the movie very similar to Eddie Murphy's "Raw" and "Delirious" films, the Richard Pryor stand-up flick from moons ago, and the best--ABSOLUTE best—of all time, "Bill Cosby, Himself."  (If you have not seen the Cosby film, you have got to see it:  every time I watch it, the thing gets funnier, and it is all PG-rated material, which is the best part about it.)

Anyway, "The Original Kings of Comedy" is hilarious.  Sure, it is laced with profanity, racism, and stinging commentary about the crowd members, but that doesn't get in the way of you laughing your ass off.  Since there is no real plot, you can just sit back and relax and take it all in.  The performances are all pretty good, although I thought Hughley was probably the weakest of the four; while his TV show "The Hughleys" is not bad, his delivery and his scatterbrained approach to joke telling made for some hit-or-miss moments during his set; the other three seemed to hit every time they told a new joke or story.  Harvey is really good here, and although I've never watched his show, he made enough jokes about it at his expense that I might have to check it out every so often now.

But, the best performance of the movie, by far, is Cedric the Entertainer's set; there are three or four moments where I almost fell out of my chair--REALLY fell out of my chair--because of the sustained laughter.  Gordon said it best:  after Cedric is done, you might have the worst face cramps you have ever suffered through from laughing.  I was trying to think if I had ever seen some of his stand-up before, and I don't think that I have; there is no question now that I am going to have to check some of it out, because this is the part that I am going to want to see again when I watch this movie on video.  Man!  They easily could have made a full two-hour movie on just Cedric's stuff, it is that good.  Bernie Mac ends better than he starts (mostly because he is a little harder to understand in terms of his English--he talks faster than I do, which I didn't think was possible), and his description of one of my favorite swear words ends his set beautifully.

Lee doesn't have to work hard here to make a good film, but his touches of showing us people in the audience and the interesting camera angles showing off the comics winning the approval of the thousands in attendance keep things interesting.  The scenes in-between each performance are not very good and don't real add anything to the comedy, so they are thankfully kept to the bare minimum.  And, for the first time in a long time, Lee doesn't show up in the movie--I have always thought that Lee is too important a character in his movies; I still think that "Do the Right Thing" would have won the Oscar that year if he wasn't the lead character.  By making a documentary, I don't have to see him at all, and he can concentrate on his incredible directing skills, not his pitiful performing attributes.

See this movie right now--do yourself a favor and skip the awful-looking race war cheerleading film "Bring It On" this weekend and catch some stand-up instead.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09