In this interracial drag comedy, Shawn and Marlon Wayans from Scary Movie play a pair of black FBI agents who go undercover as white women to foil a kidnapping plot. Review by Kevin O’Reilly.
One of the pleasures of the 1988 comedy Coming To America was the gallery of colourful supporting characters played by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in make-up. I remember the gasp that went up in the cinema when the end credits revealed the elderly Jewish man in the barbershop was Eddie Murphy. Even after learning it’s him, it’s hard to believe you’re not looking at a white man. Sixteen years later, here’s White Chicks, a drag comedy in which black comedians Shawn and Marlon Wayans play FBI agents who pass themselves off as a pair of famous white heiresses and the make-up is so bad, it threatens to stop the film working even on the dumb level it’s aiming for. We’re supposed to believe the heiresses’ friends would accept the imposters and men would drool over them but we can’t believe anyone could even take them for human beings. Look at them! They’re like the Autons from Doctor Who. Hollywood films are rarely incompetent on a technical level so why such a glaring problem wasn’t addressed, I can’t imagine.
This major reservation aside, I quite enjoyed White Chicks in a guilty pleasure kind of a way. Like The Hot Chick and Eurotrip, it’s a silly, undemanding comedy that delivers the cheap laughs it promises. There’s not much more to the plot than I’ve already described. The ridiculously rich and pampered Wilson sisters (Maitland Ward and Anne Dudek) have been threatened with kidnapping and federal agents Kevin and Marcus Copeland (Shawn and Marlon Wayans) are assigned to accompany them to party season at a swanky Hamptons resort. When the girls receive minor cuts in a car accident, they refuse to be seen in public and the Copelands, whose jobs are already hanging by a thread, decide to dress in drag, “white up” and go in their place.
Shawn and Marlon Wayans, underneath their ghastly white faces, are funny enough posing as the Wilsons (an obvious parody of Paris and Nicky Hilton). Their elder brother, co-writer and director Keenen Ivory Wayans does a markedly better job with this than he did with his mediocre Scary Movies. White Chicks feels like a comedy, not a series of sketches. Surprisingly, for a film made by black comedians about rich white people, there’s little in the way of satire. The white chicks of the title get an easy ride from the Wayans brothers, who make no observations more stinging than they like to shop, they think they’re fat and they sing along to Vanessa Carlton. The character treated the most scathingly is black: a predatory football player who likes his ladies blonde and white. If it isn’t as sharp as it could be, White Chicks does provide further proof that black comedians feel considerably less reined in by political correctness than their white counterparts. I doubt we’ll be seeing any comedies about white guys posing as black women anytime soon.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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