**½/**** Image B+ Sound A
starring Lisa Kudrow, Damon Wayans, Richard Benjamin, Christine Baranski
screenplay by Paul Rudnick
directed by Richard Benjamin
by Walter Chaw Long about the time Lisa Kudrow and her JAP posse wrap scarves around their heads in a hip-hop club and engage in a tribal dance they learned at The Seven Sisters, it becomes apparent that, while Richard Benjamin's Marci X is sort of terrible, it's also sort of brave. The places that it goes with its observations about race relationships in the United States are places that films rarely go on purpose anymore, and I admire the hell out of it for that. If most of the jokes fall flat while too much of the runtime is given over to musical numbers starring Lisa Kudrow that go nowhere, when the barbs hit their target, they do so with a kind of timeliness that defeats Paramount's decision to shelve the thing for a couple of years before dumping it in theatres last summer without much fanfare to a chorus of pre-written pans.
When Marci's (Kudrow) father (Benjamin, acting in one of his own films for the first time) suffers a heart attack after rapper Dr. S (Damon Wayans) releases a record through daddy's label that earns the censorious attention of Sen. Spinkle (Christine Baranski), Marci takes it upon herself to try to change the musician's ghetto ways. Who knew they'd fall in love?
Marci X initiates a dialogue about the sanctimonious cluelessness of the elitist white culture in regards to the exploding hip-hop culture, and the venomous hypocrisy of a hip-hop culture that espouses "real" while layered in loads of blinding bling-bling. Its satire is based on warmth, however, so that it never feels pedantic so much as just sort of Blazing Saddles silly--a farce interested in ideas and nudging society's ills instead of flatulence and jiggle. The fact that it's loaded with stereotypes means something (compare to ethnic garbage like Chasing Papi and Love Don't Co$t a Thing, whose use of stereotypes don't), and the almost universal condemnation of the flick for indulging in racial caricatures is perversely literal. It's the equivalent of damning the pot for being black. Marci X isn't a masterpiece, but it has more moments than expected. It's the kind of movie that Mel Brooks used to make, warts and all.
Paramount releases Marci X in a cramped presentation featuring both widescreen 1.85:1 anamorphic and standard unmatted video transfers on the same side of dual layer disc. It doesn't look all that great, in other words, but for all the cramming, the film barely pushes eighty minutes, so the compression doesn't take as much of a toll as it might have. Edge enhancement is noticeable, and there are a few cases of pixellation, but the image is otherwise just fine. The DD 5.1 audio mix booms its soundtrack with a liver-moving intensity--the subwoofer had a party and all of Compton was invited. Trailers for Marci X, Against the Ropes, Twisted, and The Fighting Temptations round out the spare presentation. Originally published: February 6, 2004.