Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pootie Tang

Part goofily spoofy turn-of-the-20th-century biopic, part hip-hop Spinal Tap with the absurdist knob up turned to 11, Pootie Tang is not quite like anything else you’ve ever seen. Whether because of the self-described cluelessness that got writer-director Louis C.K. fired while the film was being edited or the voiceover-narrated frame that was then imposed by the studio, this parody of a star vehicle meanders a bit before sputtering to a stop, but it delivers plenty of pleasures along the way.

Charismatic comic actors like Jennifer Coolidge (as a crazy-hatted siren whose notion of seduction includes chowing down on J.B. Smoove’s face as if it were a Milky Way) and Wanda Sykes (gyrating enthusiastically in a revolving array of candy-colored wigs as a home-girl rapper) create divinely ridiculous characters. Comedy writer Lance Crouther, in the only major role he ever played, gives karate-kicking hip-hop-artist-slash-actor-slash-role-model-slash-all-around-cool-guy Pootie Tang an appealing blend of open-hearted innocence and boy-can’t-help-it cool. We may never know the shape of C.K.’s original script, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the riffs he runs on things like Pootie’s magnetic sexual charisma, the magical powers of the belt his father used to beat young Pootie, or the infectious enthusiasm of Pootie’s nonsensical self-invented language. Sa da TAY!

Written for Brooklyn Magazine

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