1997, PG-13, 90 min. Directed by Robert Townsend. Starring Halle Berry, Martin Landau, Ian Richardson, Natalie Desselle, Troy Beyer, A.j. Johnson, Pierre.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 28, 1997
Robert Townsend's career continues its ongoing descent with this ludicrously awful culture-clash comedy that somehow manages to make not only the usually luminous Halle Berry look inept, but also Landau, whose role here puts you in mind of some giant, obsequious puppy – he's so eager to comedically please that you frequently feel the need to check for drool stains on your trousers. As a longtime Landau fan (from Hitchcock's North by Northwest to Space: 1999 to Crimes and Misdemeanors), it pains me to feel this way about the Oscar-winning actor (Ed Wood), but how he came to be involved in this project is perhaps a mystery only Robert Stack could solve. Plotwise, B.A.P.S. is shot through with the very broadest of humor: Berry and Desselle play Nisi and Mickey, a pair of outrageous ghetto divas from Decatur, Georgia. Sporting gravitationally challenged hairdos, gold teeth, and enough spandex to put the Solid Gold Dancers to shame, the pair dream of one day opening a combination soul food restaurant and upscale salon. Their opportunity to raise the requisite cash arrives when Nisi spots an announcement offering $10,000 to the winner of a video dance contest in Los Angeles. Flying out to the left coast, the girls promptly discover that neither of them can dance very well, but fate intervenes in the form of an offer from the caretaker of a dying old man (Landau), who seeks companionship in his final days. Does it even bear noting that the pair's introduction into the bitter recluse's life results in love, laughter, and learning? Of course not, but then, the love is plastic, the laughter is forced, and the learning is remedial at best. Even that prince of prime-time pap, Aaron Spelling, rarely seeks so low a common denominator as this. Townsend appears to have slaughtered his earlier, edgier comedic stylings at the altar of mediocrity; disjointed, simplistic, and occasionally offensive, B.A.P.S. is the sound of careers imploding.