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Zero stars
The Cookout
(PG-13, 85 min.)
Wide release

Thursday, September 09, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

The Cookout

Half-baked

One of the facts of life that critics quickly learn is that when studios don't hold an advance press screening, it almost always means the movie is a dog. They're hoping the movie will turn a profit the first weekend in release before word gets out. Lions Gate Films is probably right in thinking that The Cookout is not the sort of movie that needs a critic's blessing. It's low comedy and it's crudely made. But that's no excuse for it being so dull. And no, the film did not have an advance press screening.

The plot revolves around a nice guy who's suddenly made rich when he becomes a No. 1 NBA draft pick by the New Jersey Nets. Todd Anderson (Storm P) starts to lose his head, buying mansions and hanging out with slutty chicks. But Mama (Jenifer Lewis) is determined to keep her son a good boy, and she's hoping a family cookout at her son's new house will help get his feet back on the ground. At the same time, a hoity-toity executive is coming by to see about signing Todd to a lucrative endorsement deal.

Much of the film's humor is rooted in the contrast between Todd's lovable but crass extended family, and his snooty new high-class neighbors and business associates (who include Farrah Fawcett and Danny Glover). Queen Latifah has a brief role as a security guard who has dreams of making the big time by becoming a cop.

This black "Beverly Hillbillies" is a perfectly legitimate premise for a comedy, but it's so lamely written (by four credited penmasters!) and ineptly directed (by Lance Rivera) that it's painful to watch the jokes fall flat. The most intriguing thing about the whole enterprise may be Latifah's billing. She gets a "Special Appearance By" before her name. So, this is not just an "Appearance By" but a "Special Appearance By." What do you suppose that means?--Anthony Del Valle


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