Slapstick crime comedy proves laughter is as simple as black and white
By Devin D. O'Leary
Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans
Cast: Damon Wayans, Shawn Wayans
Are you familiar with the term “high concept?” It's a Hollywood buzzword used to describe a film so simplistic that the entire concept can be summed up in a single, catchy sentence. Hollywood likes high concept. White Chicks, the new comedy jam from the Wayans brothers, could very well be the highest concept film of the summer. Basically, somebody walked into a movie studio one day and said, “How about a movie in which two black guys dress up like white chicks?” The studio executives thought it over for all of two seconds and said, “Great! We'll call it White Chicks.”
Your enjoyment of/tolerance for White Chicks will depend largely on several factors: your rabid devotion to the Wayans brothers, your blood-alcohol level and how often you laughed during the cable TV debut of Big Momma's House. If you thought the Wayans boys were a laugh riot in Scary Movie 2, if you've had a couple tall ones and if you busted a gut over Martin Lawrence dressed up as a fat woman in Big Momma, then you are a prime candidate to love, love, love White Chicks.
The basic premise here is suspiciously similar to Big Momma's House. Marlon and Shawn Wayans star as Marcus and Kevin Copeland, a couple of “play by their own rules” FBI agents who seem to catch more rebukes from their boss than they do criminals. In the doghouse for yet another wacky screw-up, the boys are given the unseemly task of transporting two snobby New York heiresses (and potential kidnap victims) from the airport. Somehow, the girls get mad and refuse to attend the fancy society soiree at which they are supposed to act as unwitting kidnap bait. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Marcus and Kevin quite naturally decide to disguise themselves as the two blonde bubbleheads and go in their stead. You see, they're two black guys and they're dressed as white chicks! Much like Big Momma's House, no friends or family members ever seem to notice that their girls have been replaced by a couple of incredibly creepy, latex-covered dopplegangers.
In the grand tradition of Some Like It Hot, Mrs. Doubtfire and Dame Edna, Marlon and Shawn seem to have a gay old time goofing it up in drag. Which is a good thing, since the film's arsenal of six (!) screenwriters actually forgets the central plot for about 95 percent of the run time. Seriously, there's about five minutes of the FBI/potential kidnapping plot squeezed in at the beginning and end of the film. The rest of the time is eaten up with our boys in drag going out on dates, hitting the shopping mall with the gals, throwing down at a disco and parading in a fashion show. In case you didn't get the joke: They're black guys, and they're dressed up as white chicks!
Shawn and Marlon can at least be commended for their utter lack of shame. Racing their way through the usual battery of “guy gets racked in the nuts” and “somebody farts really loud” jokes, the Wayanses (with the usual assist of older bro Keenan behind the camera) prove that if it's good enough for the 13-year-old boys in the audience, it's good enough for them.
The supporting cast varies widely. No-name newcomers Anne Dudeck and Maitland Ward aren't called upon to do anything other than be as annoying as possible as the real white chicks. Former “Battle Dome” gladiator Terry Crews scores a raunchy laugh or two as a pro footballer with a taste for white chicks. (I think you can guess where that joke is going.) John Heard (C.H.U.D., The Trip to Bountiful, Home Alone) pops up in a tiny role that can't be the result of anything other than spiraling alimony payments. Maybe I'm crazy here, but the only real standout member of the cast is Brittany Daniel (“Sweet Valley High,” Joe Dirt) who, in an essentially meaningless part, proves she may have hidden reserves. She's never had a halfway decent role, but there's something about the way she plays her rich bitch role with such gleeful spite that makes you think maybe this girl could handle something quite a bit meatier. Then again, maybe I'm panning for gold in a public toilet.
White Chicks is the kind of film that either succeeds or fails based upon its trailers. If the sight of Shawn and Marlon Wayans dressed up as two stereotypical white girls sends you into conniptions of uncontrolled laughter, than you'll be racing to theaters. If the sight gives you a pain somewhere between your corneas and cerebral cortex, then you'll be giving this whole slapstick affair a wide berth.
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