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Dustin Putman

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Malibu's Most Wanted (2003)
1 Stars

Directed by John Whitesell
Cast: Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs, Anthony Anderson, Regina Hall, Ryan O'Neal, Blair Underwood, Damien Dante Wayans, Kellie Martin, J.P. Manoux, Kal Penn, Bo Derek, Tory Kittles, Snoop Dogg
2003 – 80 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for language, violence, and sexual humor).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 19, 2003.

Based on a character originated by Jamie Kennedy (2000's "Scream 3") in his WB reality series, "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment," it is easy to see how "Malibu's Most Wanted" could have been a clever and funny satire on race relations. Unfortunately, it holds the misfortune of being released after "Bringing Down the House" and "Head of State," two superior comedies that touched base on precisely the same topic. When held up next two these successful, albeit slight, pictures, "Malibu's Most Wanted" falls flat. There is simply not enough comic momentum to withhold even its brief 80-minute running time, and the direction by John Whitesell (2001's "See Spot Run") is veritably shaky, at best.

Since the age of three, 21-year-old Brad Gluckman (Jamie Kennedy) has been an embarrassment to his politician father, Bill (Ryan O'Neal). A wealthy white kid from Malibu who "acts" black and has a slang term for everything, all Brad dreams about is becoming a rap star. With Bill's election coming up (he is running for governor), he and his campaign assistants (Blair Underwood, Kellie Martin) decide to hire two actors, Sean (Taye Diggs) and P.J. (Anthony Anderson), to stage Brad's kidnapping, and then take him on a tour of the real "hood" in Compton to scare the ghetto out of him. Having never actually grown up in the neighborhood themselves, the shielded Sean and P.J. enlist the aid of P.J.'s beautiful cousin, aspiring hairstylist Shondra (Regina Hall), to help out in their effort.

The premise for "Malibu's Most Wanted" is not the problem. Indeed, there are a lot of possible comedic opportunities as Sean and P.J. attempt to make Brad realize he is nothing but a poser, such as taking him to a horror movie and forcing him to sit there without talking back to the screen, but director John Whitesell has no idea how to successfully pay off his jokes. For every mildly funny moment present, there are long, arduous stretches that are dead-on-arrival, lacking anything fresh or original. Had the movie stayed put in Brad's high-scale Malibu neighborhood, emphasizing the fish-out-of-water aspect of the story, it likely would have worked much better than what it ends up doing, which is indulging in black stereotypes.

A parody of the climactic rap battle in 2002's "8 Mile" decides to nearly replay that film's sequence without even adding a spin on it. The screenplay, amazingly credited to four writers—Fax Bahr, Jamie Kennedy, Nick Swardson, and Adam Small—apparently does not know the first thing about what makes a spoof a spoof. To deliriously skew or twist an original vision is to parody; to merely repeat that vision is to rip off.

The actors do their best with material that many of them seem to know is below their talents. In his first major lead role, Jamie Kennedy is really quite excellent, a comic performer with untamed energy to spare. Since he is one of the screenwriters and producers, however, he should be criticized just as much as commended for the finished product. Anthony Anderson (2003's "Kangaroo Jack") and Taye Diggs (2003's "Basic") have fun in the roles of Sean and P.J., two high-brow scholars who act about as white as Brad acts ghetto. And Regina Hall (the greatest attribute to both 2000's "Scary Movie" and 2001's "Scary Movie 2") is appropriately winning as hired co-conspirator Shondra, who finds herself falling for Brad's obvious sweetness. A cameo by Snoop Dogg (2001's "The Wash") as a talking rat is about as embarrassing as his involvement in the popular porno, "Snoop Dogg's Doggy Style."

Every step of the way, "Malibu's Most Wanted" reminds of a rough cut, rather than a completed motion picture. Scenes that would normally be underscored by music in order to quicken the pace are played out with nothing but room sound, while in others the actors seem to stand around for an inordinate amount of time, as if they are unsure of what their next line is or haven't been sufficiently coached by their director. As good as Jamie Kennedy is as Brad Gluckman, "Malibu's Most Wanted" is just as lame.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman