I could easily get my liberal knickers in a twist over The Wash's
stereotype-mongering hustlers 'n' ho's take on urban black culture. But I figure, hey -- African-American movie fans are a powerful, assertive market bloc who are plenty capable of defining their own boundaries. There's another group, though, who truly need and deserve critical protection. These are the gentle, pacific legions of heavy marijuana smokers to whom this insultingly amateurish comedy is equally targeted. Now I'll grant you that a giggling stoner with a beardful of SunChips crumbs may not necessarily be the most discriminating consumer. Still, I'd be shocked if even a totally wasted Phish fan could find many laughs in Pooh's joke- and plot-starved script, which feels made up on the fly and could actually be a compelling Exhibit A for the case against improvisational movie comedy. I guess Pooh (Friday)
could argue that his emphasis of quirky character interaction and off-the-wall set-pieces over linear plotting is true to the spirit of his film's apparent model, the 1976 Michael Schultz hit, Car Wash.
Unfortunately, there's this nagging little problem of a talent differential as wide as Shaquille O'Neal's bum. Schultz had Richard Pryor, Bill Duke, Ivan Dixon, and George Carlin (among others) to work with. Pooh has cannabiphilic rappers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, both of whom seem to have been partaking heavily on the set. The basic setup: Shiftless knucklehead Dee Loc (Dogg) hooks roommate Sean (Dre) up with a job at the car wash where he “works” between drug sales and restroom booty calls with his insatiable girlfriend. Soon, though, the marginally more responsible Sean becomes Loc's boss, setting off a chain reaction of arguments and payback ploys, each less uproarious than the one before. Also plugged in, apparently as a excuse for adding more characters and getting a couple of female stars into skin-tight slutwear, is a subplot about rescuing The Wash's
tyrannical boss (Wallace) from a group of kidnappers. What might have elevated this clinker to the semi-watchable level of, say, Half Baked?
More screen time for Wallace, for starters. Though hardly the most versatile comic actor, he's at least a steady energy source in an otherwise lifeless movie. It might also have helped if, just for variety's sake, Pooh had restricted his cast to 10 uses of the f-word per minute of improvised dialogue, and if Snoop, a legit talent who seems to require the sharp kiss of the directorial lash in order to do his best work, had been pushed a bit out of his somnambulant comfort zone. And finally, just a bit of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for all the weedies out there, a demographic whose extremely forgiving artistic standards are keeping countless Hollywood hacks off the unemployment rolls. Next time, Pooh, why not do the work it takes and give your drowsy-eyed meal tickets some of the (as it were) good shit?