Image Entertainment // 2011 // 61 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // March 8th, 2012
"I ain't scared of you!"
Bernard McCullough (1957-2008), the comic who later became famous as Bernie Mac, was still rising as a star even at the age of fifty, when he died of a heart attack. If it seems strange to write about a man of his age being a rising star, it's only because none of his movie roles ever really made full use of his remarkable talent as a comedian. He wasn't a simple jokesmith -- his comedy was often dark, observational, and personal. Only some of the vehicles that used him made the most of his abilities. I Ain't Scared of You: A Tribute to Bernie Mac, a documentary that chronicles the comedian's life and work through interviews with those who knew him and worked with him, isn't as thorough as it might have been in summarizing his talent, but it does have enough samples of his best work to be at least worth watching.
The documentary includes interviews with some of Mac's costars in his films, such as Cameron Diaz (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle), Zoe Saldana (Guess Who), Carl Reiner (Ocean's Twelve), and Angela Bassett (Mr. 3000), as well as fellow comics like Chris Rock, Eddie Griffin, and his The Original Kings of Comedy tour-mates Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley. In addition, there are interviews with Mac's wife and children, who paint a portrait of Mac as a devoted father and husband who just wanted to show how talented he was. The interviews with movie stars are much less compelling, consisting of mostly standard platitudes. It's clear that Mac really came alive in his standup comedy, which is why the best professional analyses of his work come from his fellow comics, especially Rock and Hughley. During these moments, as well as the more personal reminiscences from Mac's family, I Ain't Scared of You is at its best.
The biggest flaw is that we don't get enough of Bernie Mac's best standup work. There are some invaluable clips of some of his earliest standup appearances, but these are too short to really give a good depiction of his talents. There are some snippets taken from his watershed appearance on Def Comedy Jam that launched his Hollywood career (and that give this DVD its name), but there are no extended examples of just what a great standup he was. It was his standup comedy more than his movie roles (which were ultimately too uneven and one-dimensional to really do his skills justice) that made Bernie Mac such a beloved star. Even his underrated TV series, The Bernie Mac Show, was a much better representation of his talents than any of his movie roles. Maybe had he lived he would have found a movie role that truly made the most of his abilities, but the ones he had were generally not that interesting. It's too bad we don't often really get to see Mac at his best, although you can get a better feel for that in the clips seen here from The Original Kings of Comedy and The Bernie Mac Show; more of those would have made this a much more enthralling documentary, even though it does have its heart in the right place.
The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer varies depending on the age of the material. There are options for Dolby 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes but the 5.1 is rather superfluous, since most of the disc consists of talking heads. Either one is fine, though. There are some additional interviews included, and while none are revelatory, they do add some interesting tidbits here and there.
Ultimately, while I Ain't Scared of You does give a decent look at Mac's work and mourns what was lost with his death, it doesn't really give a comprehensive analysis of the complexity of Mac's talent. There are some trenchant insights and some rare footage, so it's worth seeing for Mac fans, but it's just hard not to wish that it could have been superb instead of just above average.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 61 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage