There’s nothing in this world quite like a bad comedy. Maybe it’s the sight of performers (whatever their talent level) flailing for laughs, since desperation carries with it a kind of car-wreck fascination. The need to be funny, and the failure to be so cuts both the comic actor and his or her audience to the bone. It’s a form of debasement so very, very human: Who among us doesn’t want to earn a resonant guffaw of approval and assent? And who among us doesn’t cringe (even if only in knee-jerk empathy) when there is no laughter — just deadening silence? Smiles slink away. Joy vanishes. The abyss stares forever back.
These are just a few of the thoughts that might come to mind during the seemingly 10-and-three-quarter-hour running time of Meet the Blacks, a wrongheaded, utterly incompetent and nearly laugh-free satire starring stand-up comic — and co-star of the Friday and Hangover series — Mike Epps. The film opens with a Creepshow-like procession of comic panels that catch us up on the plight of Epps‘ ironically-named-and-he’ll-tell-you-so Carl Black. Fed up with crime-plagued life in Chicago, and having just come (by very illegal means) into a large sum of money, Black moves his rowdy, rambunctious brood cross-country to a posh Beverly Hills gated community.
Purge it quick.
Surely here the family can find some peace and quiet, and never again have to fear for their lives. But wouldn’t you know, no sooner have they settled in than it’s time for the annual purge! Yes, co-writer/director Deon Taylor is parodying the popular horror series (already an extreme satire of sorts) in which all crime is legal for 12 hours and bloody hell breaks loose. So it isn’t long before gun-toting, chainsaw-wielding, cleaver-slashing, blowdart-huffing and very, very flatulent (this is a “comedy,” after all) masked madmen show up on the Blacks’ doorstep.
A procession of C-to-D level guest stars appear as purgers: George Lopez plays the trigger-happy President of the United States, El Bama, who has an arsenal at the ready and a lust for taking down Arnold Schwarzenegger. Shameless gossip columnist Perez Hilton gets garroted with a pool cue after growling a few feeble threats. Former champion boxer Mike Tyson elicits a few chuckles (an oasis in this context) as a psychotic birthday clown with a Richard III hairdo that he flips around with girlish ecstasy.
Even the most undiscerning viewers may feel like howling Lady Anne’s riposte from Bill Shakespeare’s grand tragedy: “Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes.” That feeling will only double once they witness Taylor and Epps’s cringingly unfunny pokes at the racial divides tearing this country apart. A cheery white couple bears both arms and Williams-Sonoma gift baskets. The N-word is used copiously, with desensitizing glibness. There’s even a George Zimmerman-esque neighborhood watchman, and if you’re gonna go there, your sense of humor better be trenchantly on point.
This is a film, though, in which timely comedy apparently means naming a character Lorena (as in Bobbitt) and making a Shamu-from-Sea-World fat joke. With that frame of reference, we should be thankful Epps and Taylor left Rodney King the hell alone.
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Production company: Hidden Empire Film Group
Cast: Mike Epps, Mike Tyson, George Lopez, Perez Hilton, Zulay Henao, Charlie Murphy, Andrew Bachelor, Bresha Webb
Director: Deon Taylor
Writers: Nicole DeMasi, Deon Taylor
Cinematographer: John T. Connor
Editors: Suzanne Hines, Patrick McMahon, Richard B. Molina
Rated R, 90 minutes