"Sugar to shit. Don't hate the playa…hate the game."
Jamie Foxx, ensemble player on Keenan Ivory Wayans' early-'90s sketch comedy show, In Living Color, and star of the short-lived sitcom The Jamie Foxx Show brings his 1997 stand-up comedy tour to Dallas, Texas.
Unleashed is cut from the same cloth as Eddie Murphy's Delirious and Raw, right down to Foxx's leather jacket ensemble. But, hey, Foxx acknowledges Murphy as an inspiration and the admission makes him no less funny, just as Murphy's obvious debt to Richard Pryor didn't stifle any guffaws. Like Murphy, Foxx is a natural entertainer who oozes talent (on top of his stints on TV and roles in comedy features like Booty Call, he's proven himself a capable dramatic actor in Any Given Sunday and Ali). Foxx's stand-up moves with natural ease from wry wit to bawdy laughs to dead-on impressions as he covers topics as far-ranging as old-school rap, the Clinton-Dole presidential race, the death of Lady Di, fallen heroes (O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson, and Eddie Murphy), women who are "cute in the face and thick in the waist," real boobs versus fake, and church. In perhaps the funniest segment of the show, Foxx talks about the absurdity of feuding and vendettas inside the rap and hip hop community. Observing that no other subset of the entertainment industry behaves similarly, he does pitch perfect impressions of foul-mouthed, trash-talking feuds between Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby, then Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan. It all makes for a decent combination of high-concept wit and Catskills shtick.
The only problem here is the act's age. Good stand-up is a reflection of its time. The Unleashed DVD may be dated 2003, but the tour from which it sprang happened back in 1997. Much of the material is timeless, but the O.J. jokes would certainly have been funnier back when Foxx was on this tour, the minor scandal that makes Murphy one of the comedian's fallen heroes has been largely forgotten, and the material on feuding rappers must have been far more daring back then since Tupac Shakur had been gunned down only the year before. Even so, Foxx is funny.
Image brings Jamie Foxx Unleashed to DVD in a full screen transfer slightly better than broadcast television, which is fine since it's a TV production. Colors are bright and solid, and there's little sign of digital noise or artifacts. Audio is stereo. Based on the fact the soundtrack consists of Foxx talking to an audience, anything more elaborate wouldn't have heightened the experience much. The only extra is a featurette called "After the Show," nine minutes of sloppy, handheld video footage of Foxx and his sister chatting and reminiscing backstage. The two even perform a duet on the piano. It has its charm, I suppose, but is roughly the equivalent of watching someone else's home movies. One can tell the two are close, but Foxx's sister doesn't seem particularly comfortable with the camera on. I imagine they have a lot more fun together off-camera, but that doesn't help the featurette.
Unleashed isn't the funniest or smartest stand-up I've ever seen, but it still made me laugh out loud more than a few times. When it comes to comedy, does anything matter more than that?
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