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Pootie Tang

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Pootie: The baddest of the bad.

© 2001 Paramount
All Rights Reserved

If the phrase "Sine your piddy on the runny kine" doesn't extract howls of laughter from you, I would suggest to avoid the new feature "Pootie Tang" (IMDb listing) at all costs.

Pootie Tang (Lance Crouther) is the baddest brother on Earth. Born in a town outside of Gary, Indiana called Chicago, Pootie speaks a language only the coolest people understand. A mixture of street jive and unintelligible nonsense ("Ooooh, sepatown!), it drives the women crazy and makes Pootie a hero to children around the globe. Battling his sinister foes with the help of his daddy's lethal belt, Pootie finds himself facing ultimate evil in the form of Dick Lecter (Robert Vaughn), the CEO of a global corporation bent on ruining Pootie's good name to sell kids junk food, malt liquor, and burgers filled with MSG.

The character of Pootie Tang was born on the late HBO sketch-comedy program "The Chris Rock Show." Created by star Crouther and writer/director Louis C.K. (himself a talented stand-up comedian), Pootie Tang is one odd fellow, and like the film itself, if you don't get the joke right away, there is really no good reason to continue. Poking fun at the culture of hip-hop cool (or taking it to its logical conclusion) on the cable show, it was a blast to see Pootie run for congress, or stop by to promote his latest music video or book. However, taking a five minute idea and making a full-length feature out of it is a tricky notion. It only seems to work for "Saturday Night Live" about 50 percent of the time. In the film's favor is a list of reliable talent both in front and behind the camera. They collaborate to make "Pootie Tang" one of the more elusive, yet triumphant comedies of the year.

Playing off of Blacksploitation cliches, parodying the MTV culture, and even exploring archetypal comic book mythology, "Pootie Tang" is the most specific motion picture in ages. With all the studios trying to find the widest possible audience for their films, "Pootie Tang" only plays to the inner circle that knows what makes Pootie so funny. Sure, that's a bit limiting, yet it frees up the rest of the movie to be as silly, creative, and fearless as it damn well pleases.

And fearlessly funny "Pootie Tang" is. It's an old-fashioned gut buster that somehow comes up with a laugh for every minute of its tragically short running time (79 minutes). That's not to say it isn't messy. The low budget allotted to "Pootie" shows unmercifully in the picture through chaotic and misdirected editing, and even a handful of unfinished process shots. Nevertheless, as low tech as "Pootie" is, it makes up for it with unbridled enthusiasm for Pootie's world, and a gloriously committed performance from Crouther.

The screenplay gives Crouther and Pootie plenty to do. The funniest bits include Pootie and his ability to stylishly dodge bullets; Pootie's heartbreak over the respect he loses from the local kids ("No, not the tipi-tyes!); a bizarre villain named Dirty D—due to his addiction to being filthy; a young Pootie breaking the heart of a 30 year-old woman; and Pootie's seduction of a farmer's daughter by rubbing a cherry pie all over his body. Chris Rock also pops up now and then in various supporting roles, most memorably as Pootie's Dad, who uses the magical belt to curb his son's bad behavior by smacking him with it.

I'm not going to kid myself here. I know that this film will not appeal to everybody. For those who are searching for something original, silly, and unconcerned with mass acceptance, you could not do any better than "Pootie Tang". Sa da tay!

Filmfodder Grade: A+

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