Lionsgate // 2001 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // February 22nd, 2003
To live and die by the rhyme
Please be advised that a pencil, a legal pad, a slide rule, several Vivarin tablets, and select copies of Jet Magazine may and will be needed to follow the outlandish plotline of this movie. Ready? Here goes:
Jelly and Roughneck are drug dealers in 1986. They hear "Supersonic" by JJ Fad and decide that selling Ruffies to frat boys is a dead end business. The real money is in sampling James Brown. Unfortunately, Jelly has this thing about sharing payola so he sets up Roughneck at a police sting, where the patsy gets 15 years for killing MC Hammer's career.
After eleven years Rough is paroled by Judge Joe Brown (really). The jurist tells him that there are two different kinds of payback in the penal system -- one to the government and one to him. Apparently, in return for his freedom, His Honor wants a date with Rough's mom, Lily, an ex-jazz singer who was once a superstar (you can tell from the extensive cosmetic surgery she's had).
As he leaves prison, our anxious ex-con is picked up by his uncle Jake, an ex-cop kung fu master who now helps his brother Vaughn, Rough's mom's ex-husband (but not Rough's dad) run a combination mountain fried chicken restaurant and nightclub. His director of talent (and coleslaw) is Chili Peppa. She immediately falls for Rough's elaborate prison tattoos.
While waiting on a two piece box with biscuit, Rough runs into his baby brother Tyrone, otherwise known as Master P Wee and learns that he is an up and coming rap sensation with a cocky attitude, a wealth of Young MC rhymes, some horrendously lame backup dancers and a iron clad screw job contract with a big deal music impresario named -- you guessed it, Jelly.
Now Rough is pissed. He tries confronting Jam Master Jell, but is rebuffed by his bodyguards...Ham and Cheese (really). There is also trouble over at Jelly's Death Star record label. Seems the rolly polly oily one wants to steal songs from Tyrone to give to a member of En Vogue (really) and he gets his white English partner Tony to confront an artist's representative named Wilson (who looks a lot like Ice T) about the potential scamola. But what Jello don't know is that this faux-cockney cracker is actually stealing the songs from both Tyrone AND Jelly to give to his American Idol-less girlfriend. Chili learns all this when she makes an emergency urine stop at a 24-hour Thai restaurant, where apparently all incontinent night owls go to cop a squirt. Tony's bird bladdered girlfriend also makes a tinkle trek there and spills the beans about the song stealing when the peeing Peppa overhears her cell phone call.
When Wilson finds out, he gets cop killer mad. He threatens to hold back the demo tapes from one of his clients -- either Tyrone, Sandi Patty, or LaWanda Page -- if Jelly doesn't "handle his business." Wilson tells Rough that he wants to talk to him about his legally lassoed last poet brother. But before they can meet, T finds himself iced as a bullet produces a meeting of his mind with the windshield. Who pulled the trigger? Well, with a name like Smuckers...
Chili runs to her best friend and ex-sorority sister from college for legal advice. Turns out that the reason the former classmate hasn't been keeping in touch is that she is busy...running for governor of California. She has just hired a new campaign manager who likes to break furniture. Not to get anyone's attention, mind you, he just likes splinters. Always aware of her constituency, she offers Chili a free meal.
Rough gets a gun and decides to kill Jelly. Wu Tang Tyrone writes a song for "his moms" Lily to sing called Rhapsody, and after one lip-synced take in the studio, she is spurred to regain the stage once again (at the ex-husband bird barn, of course) and reclaim her diva-dom. She jumpstarts her career comeback with a rousing duet with Vaughn. Jelly decides that the best way to tie up all the loose ends surrounding Mr. Ice-T's death is to burn down the nightclub. Vaughn gets angry post arson and confronts Jellybelly. Tony interrupts the negotiations and shoots the idiot. Then the deli combo bodyguards show up and beat the living spit out of the Brit. They dump Vaughn's body in a park dumpster and bury the Tory Tony in a plot hole so deep no one could find him.
The death of a man Rough could not have cared less about really makes him mad. But it's Uncle Jake Cop who heads over to confront the Welch's weenie. But that ludicrous little bro Tyrone shows up (after learning he can download his music off the internet!) and blows Jell away in a Photoshop spray of computer generated blood and guts. And then Rough shows up, grabs the gun out of his brothers hand, and takes the rap (ha -- get it, the RAP) for the killing. He goes back to jail and someone reads a really holier than thou poem about the spirit of man or something. The End.
Rhapsody (or as it should be called -- Crapsody) stinks like a rancid bottle of Afro Sheen. It's not in the category of being 'so bad its good'. It's in a goofy crass classness all by itself. Stuffed with more pointless drivel than your average Lil Bow Wow CD and as overflowing as Mo'Niques underpants with self-righteous intentions, this P. Diddy Peyton Place careens recklessly between Kriss Kross level hip-hop musical numbers, a dressed in black leather pimp daddy mackin' Judge Joe Brown, and outtakes from Suge Knight: Behind the Music to miserably fail at telling a cohesive story. It's like Jackie Collins on crack. Never before have so many soap opera-ish machinations been convoluted in the name of Ebonics and phat, dope beats (or is that big fat dopes?) This whole hollow enterprise is filled with non-action, non-characterization and non-acting. Even the fake boobs look awful. Rhapsody is a less than homemade quality movie that surprisingly stars several well-known African American personalities who must have been repaying a family favor or completing a community service requirement. There is nothing for them to do except to stand around and mumble their awkward dialogue in horrendously composed medium two shots. The entire "movie" has the feel of someone's video will or a racketeering deposition. The image has a real Sony circa 1976 Betamax quality, or maybe it's a UHF newscast dubbed over onto used video store screeners feel. And while unconfirmed in the credits, it is clear that the sound was recorded directly onto wax cylinders by an Edison phonograph.
The only saving grace to this package is that Lions Gate saw the light (and what they had here) and decided to release a DVD so bare bones that Calista Flockheart and Lara Flynn Boyle are both jealous. Aside from the option to "PLAY" the movie, this DVD is as austere as its entertainment value. No scene selection. No making of featurette, which is a real shame, since it would have been interesting to see how the producers blackmailed the cast into working on this pathetic dog, or how the effects department (or in actuality some junior high school computer geek) used an Apple IIe to create the elaborate gunshot animation and fake jail cell bars in the film. Understandably, the DVD also fails to include a commentary, since a cinematic convulsion this deranged speaks volumes for itself. Anything actually describing its dementia would be overkill. As for the view and the voice, the full screen image modulates between over sharp greens and hyper flaring reds, just to make sure everyone got the message that this was created with someone's state of the art Fisher Price moving picture play set. The musical score is equally amateurish and mundane, with each "hot new joint" being "broken off" sounding like "Tonight, I Dedicate My Love to You" as remixed by DJ Jazzy Jeff. Together, this entire combined abomination comes across as a porno without the sex or a made for public access special conceived by feverish polecats. It was originally entitled Deadly Rhapsody. One of the few cases of absolute truth in advertising.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R