1999, R, 96 min. Directed by Dave Meyers. Starring Bill Duke, Marla Gibbs, Traci Bingham, Andrew Dice Clay, Amy Peterson, Master P, Eddie Griffin.
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., April 30, 1999
Faint praise up front: Rapper-screenwriter Master P may be out of his league in this non-rhyming creative arena, and he's no great shakes as an actor, but at least the latest product of his No Limit business empire can't accurately be dismissed as a vanity project. Instead, P, a onetime high-school basketball scoring star, proves beyond a doubt that he can pass the rock as well as shoot it, framing Foolish from the opening toss as an uncontested alley-oop lob for pal Eddie Griffin to dunk. Not that there was any risk of P's contributions in any way overshadowing the mercurial, trash-talking stand-up comic and star of UPN's Malcolm and Eddie TV series. The plot here is just some inconsequential crust of brain dandruff about two brothers (P as bush-league hoodlum Fifty Dollah and Griffin as brilliant but troubled comedian Foolish Waise) who bicker constantly, fall out over women but still be each other's niggas, goddamn it when times are hard. It comes off as what it may very well be -- the product of a weekend's worth of desultory cribbing from How to Make Millions as a Screenwriter books at Borders. Since Foolish is so story-deprived as to hardly qualify as a movie at all, it's probably more reasonable to evaluate it as an Eddie Griffin concert film. If you've seen his stuff on Comedy Central, you can get a pretty good fix on his Foolish Waise persona by simply doubling the references to genitalia, sex, and the perfidy of “beyotches,” then blending in a generous helping of tired observational humor about racial characteristics. But interspersed among material that would hardly pass muster for Andrew Dice Clay (who co-stars as Fifty's gangster employer) is some startlingly poignant, passionately delivered stuff on the subjects of absentee fathers, the African-American male's plight, and slavery. Though the script presents his Foolish Waise character as a full-blown genius, Eddie Griffin is obviously still a work in progress, striving toward an idiosyncratic fusion of Redd Foxx (who in one sorta-funny running gag appears as Foolish's toilet stall-dwelling artistic muse), Richard Pryor, and Chris Rock. The man is raw in more ways than one, but he at least shows promise. Which is more than can be said for Master P's prospects as a Hollywood Renaissance Man. My advice for potential viewers is to respect the wisdom of creative specialization by taking their P on audio, their G on video, and chalking up this film as a forgivable lapse into artistic hubris.