White Chicks Review
With White Chicks the Wayans brothers, in their various capacities as writers, actors and director, move into a slightly more cinematic direction. Since their TV series In Living Color the family team have made their names on the big screen through parodying various genres and filmic trends: blaxploitation in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka; the crop of black urban movies that surfaced during the nineties in Don’t Be a Menace to Society Whilst Drinking Your Juice in the Hood; and the post-Scream horror flick in the first two Scary Movie films. Seemingly bored with spoofing duties (the trio passed Scary Movie 3 onto David Zucker and Leslie Nielsen), this latest release would appear to be a calculated, if tentative, step into more conventional territory. I say tentative as the emphasis is still very much on the comedy, but here it is pinned onto a flimsy FBI plotline involving two agents (Shawn and Marlon Wayans) uncovering high society corruption albeit whilst wearing prosthetic make-up which transforms them into the “white chicks” of the title.
Yet whilst this switch may be admirable (especially in light of just how awful Scary Movie 2 was), it is also fraught with problems. The greater emphasis on narrative as opposed to what had previously been essentially a sketch format means that a greater emphasis must likewise be placed on both the direction and the characterisation. In the case of the former, Keenan Ivory Wayans is unable to make the step up form the earlier material; the film as a whole retains an overall look of cheapness whilst the handling of the action is shaky at best (note that when fourth brother Damon made the move into thrillers during the early nineties with the likes of The Last Boy Scout and Mo’ Money he worked with action directors Tony Scott and Rambo III’s Peter Macdonald). His brothers share a similar problem and rather than become fully fledged characters they remain as lightweight as their previous incarnations. Of course, in these earlier roles this wasn’t a problem as the gags (whatever their success rate) were the sole focus and came at a near constant rate. With White Chicks, however, the extended length (an excessive one hour and 50 minutes), lower joke count and concentration on exposition clearly demonstrate that the filmmakers are hoping to provide their audience with a little more substance. That they fail to do so only means that the humour quotient becomes just as important than in previous works.
And the simple fact is that White Chicks just isn't funny. It’s not that the gross out humour is getting increasingly tired, though this does play its part, but rather that the Wayans’ satirical target is too narrow. In the past their spoof format allowed for a wide net to be cast that never had any perceivable limits (a Scream gag here, a Michael Jackson one there). Here, however, some heavy borrowings from Some Like It Hot aside, the one-dimensional “dumb blonde” is expected to sustain the entire running time. The problem is that the stereotype more often than not proves perfectly (if unknowingly) capable of self-satirisation on their accord, and as such an episode of Jessica Simpson’s reality TV series Newlyweds receives a far heartier recommendation than this dire nonsense ever will.
White Chicks arrives on disc looking and sounding perfectly adequate. It’s not a picture that is blessed with particularly fine cinematography (presented anamorphically at a ratio of 1.78:1) or even warrants a DD5.1 sound mix, but then the disc offers no technical difficulties and as such any problems are solely the fault of the filmmakers.
As for the extras, there is nothing on the disc that particularly warrants any interest. All three of the Wayans are on commentary duty, but despite the number of participants its a decidedly muted affair. Not only are they surprisingly quiet, but they also, tellingly, fail to laugh at any of their own jokes. Any hope of insight is unfulfilled beyond an early comment in which one of the brothers notes that “all of the funny stuff ended up on the cutting room floor”.
Also present are three featurettes, one focusing on the make-up, the other two being standard EPK fare. As such only the former provides any real interest, but this proves disappointing as it never shows any of the test footage that the various interviewees talk about so much.
Rounding off the package are selected filmographies for the Wayans, plus theatrical trailers for four other Columbia releases (Anacondas, The Forgotten, Little Black Book, Envy).
All of the extra features, including the commentary, come with optional English or Dutch subtitles.