Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans. Starring Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, John Heard, Jaime King, Frankie Faison, Lochlyn Munro, Busy Phillipps. (2004, PG-13, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 25, 2004
White Chicks – the new Wayans brothers comedy featuring siblings Shawn and Marlon as a pair of FBI agents who, with their careers dangling by a thread in the wake of a botched drug bust, go undercover to protect a pair of bratty New York fashionistas and end up having to assume the ditzy identities of their charges when the real girls won’t cooperate – is neither as bad as you might assume nor as good as you might hope. Slathered in white make-up and hidden for much of the film behind oddly bulky latex facial appliances, the senior Wayans is most probably lampooning (the all but nonexistent) race relations in society’s upper crust. However, as I prefer to do, you can chuck all those edgy jokes out the window (they’re not so edgy they’d dent the lawn) and take it as one man’s sublimely transgressive homage to French director George Franju’s iconic 1959 classic Eyes Without a Face. The younger brothers, made up and decked out with the finest Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Manolo Blahnik that wardrobe can manufacture, are clearly meant as a parody of everybody’s favorite media misbehavers, the Hilton sisters (and I’m not talking about conjoined twins Daisy and Violet, although you can pretty much bet your wages that would have made for a more interesting film). Masquerading as the megabucks bad girls Brittany and Tiffany Wilson, agents Marcus and Kevin Copeland (Marlon and Shawn Wayans, respectively) resemble nothing so much as a double dose of Edith Scob’s doomed Christiane from the aforementioned Eyes, their false flesh oddly immobile, their eyes and limbs acting when their faces cannot. Like I said, it’s much more fun to read the film this way since a direct interpretation only offers standard potshots at the rich and stupid. The script, written by the three brothers, is ludicrous and incomprehensible, and plays cat-and-mouse games with what could have been some deeply funny comments on race, wealth, and, in one inspired changing-room scene, eating disorders. Instead, the Wayans play it safe, and the result, with its wishy-washy nods to both female empowerment and noisy bowel trouble, is a movie as white-bread and facile as one can imagine. Shawn and Marlon Wayans are enormously ingratiating actors (as is Busy Philipps, late of Freaks and Geeks), but their antic performances fail to hide the fact that White Chicks is as fluffily disposable as a meringue. Nods to everything from Some Like It Hot to Soul Man are here in abundance, but with a tangled and pointless plot that redefines vapidity, they’re the gag writer’s equivalent of sprinkles on a doughnut hole, an empty treat for the cinematic bulimics in the audience.