Unlike so many Saturday Night Live spin-offs, the underrated Pootie Tang was built out of a TV skit -- from the defunct Chris Rock Show -- that deserved a fuller treatment. Mining the line between gibberish and jive -- and between hip-hop and hype -- Rock Show director Louis C.K. has written and directed a movie that aims for cult status and mostly earns it. Pootie (played by Lance Crouther) is a ghetto superstar par excellence -- corny-cool right down to his cheap tinted shades and wide-open short-sleeve shirts. And while he may look like a wannabe Commodore trying to get backstage at a Teena Marie-Rick James concert, he's really a superhero whose powers lie in a magic belt bequeathed to Pootie by his late father (one of many roles played by Rock). When he's not recording wordless hit songs, he's out doing public service announcements to keep the kids of America (by way of Brooklyn) sober, off drugs, and as far away from cheeseburgers and chicken as possible. His PSAs have driven a super-conglomerate's profits into the ground. Eventually the CEO (played by Robert Vaughn in a hilariously tragic dye job) dispatches his temptress (Jennifer Coolidge) to weaken Pootie so he can steal the belt and make Pootie do malt liquor ads. You get the picture: Pootie Tang mocks the place where hip-hop and blaxplotiation meet. As it turns out, the movie's low-budget sheen is its own best critique of the retro-fabulousness being laughed at. With the peerless Wanda Sykes (dressed as a middle-aged Lil' Kim) providing plenty of laughs, Pootie is hellbent on keepin' it surreal.
The character of Pootie Tang, a blend of hip-hop star and blaxploitation stud superhero, is well played by Lance Crouther who simultaneously brings to mind both Rudy Ray Moore as Dolemite and Buster Keaton's hilarious stone-faced expressions. For its first 15 minutes, the film is an inspired series of jokes ranging from a parody of a fight scene in an action film to the unusual death of Pootie's dad, including maybe the funniest scene ever of an unfaithful lover being kicked out of his jealous girlfriend's apartment. Although the film is unable to maintain the humor and the energy throughout its rather short 75-minute running time, Pootie Tang does deserve to be mentioned alongside Hollywood Shuffle and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka as one of the few films to take a strong comedic look at the images of African-Americans in popular culture. Though unable to expand on its sketch-comedy roots, Pootie Tang has all the makings of a cult favorite.
Poised somewhere between blaxploitation spoof and avant-garde freak-out, Pootie Tang qualifies as the weirdest, funniest studio release of the  summer and a bona fide cult object in the making.... "Sipi-tai!" and "Wa-da-ta!" are his favorite interjections. It's one of the movie's central jokes that everyone somehow understands what he's saying.... [Louis] C.K. enlivens the proceedings with a befuddling array of alienation effects...and muscles through the threadbare patches by sheer force of surreal non sequitur. Dennis Lim
|Sound:||[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]|