Directed by Jeff Byrd. Starring Anthony Anderson, Donald Faison, Regina Hall, Jay Mohr, Kellita Smith, Loretta Devine, Nicole Ari Parker, Leila Arcieri. (2005, PG-13, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 29, 2005
A mirthless comedy about venal people doing stupid things, King’s Ransom has little chance of collecting much dough. The film wasn’t screened for critics in advance of its opening last week, and it becomes clear why upon seeing it: What should be a madcap movie about a series of ill-conceived, inter-related kidnapping plots is instead a jumble of disconnected characters, shabby craftsmanship, and missed opportunities. Anderson, who has usually proved an effective comic presence in previous films, here is handed the leading-man spot as Malcolm King, an enormously successful but obnoxious African-American entrepreneur. (That this easy name recognition derives from two of the best-known African-American activists of the 20th century is an example of the kind of crassness on display in King’s Ransom. With his bootilicious girlfriend and newly promoted vice-president, Peaches (Hall), he concocts a plot to have himself kidnapped in order to hide money from his divorce-hungry gold-digging wife (Smith). The plan goes awry when a couple other simultaneous kidnapping plots intercede and bollix up everything for everyone. The first two-thirds of the movie is spent introducing all the characters, but it’s done in such a disjointed manner that the actors all seem as though they’re delivering their lines in isolation from one another, even when they’re in the same scene together. The script (by Wayne Conley) has characters constantly underscoring the obvious and recapping their intentions: They might as well be wearing cardboard signs around their necks. The direction and editing is as shoddy as the workmanship on the patently obvious breakaway furniture in the fight scenes. King’s Ransom is the comic equivalent of a lump of coal.