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Case Number 07509

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King's Ransom

New Line // 2005 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // September 2nd, 2005

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All Rise...

Movies like King's Ransom make Judge Ian Visser want to hang up his robe and go fishing.

The Charge

"This movie should be called 'Eyes, wigs, and tits!'"—Anthony Anderson, on the King's Ransom commentary track.

Opening Statement

The prosecution presents the court with a comedy that is not funny, directed by a man who cannot direct.

Facts of the Case

Malcolm King (Anthony Anderson, Cradle 2 the Grave) is rich, loud, and arrogant. He's on top of the world as CEO of his own company, he has all the toys a man could want, and he plans to sell out to another wealthy millionaire in a few days.

However, all is not well in King's paradise. To avoid paying a big divorce settlement to his gold-digging wife Renee (Kelitta Smith, Fair Game), King enlists his mistress (Regina Hall, The Honeymooners) and her jailbird brother (Charlie Murphy, Chappelle's Show) to help kidnap him. Little does King know that several other parties have stumbled upon the same plan, and King soon finds himself being passed from kidnapper to kidnapper as a meal ticket on two legs.

The Evidence

Watching King's Ransom has to be one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had. From start to finish, nothing makes sense in this waste of money. The story is ridiculous, the characters are clichéd and stereotyped, and all the jokes fall flat. There are no redeeming features in King's Ransom; the entire effort is a wash-out, and everyone looks guilty. Director Jeff Byrd (Final Breakdown) talks throughout the commentary track about what he was attempting to do with the material, but there is a complete disconnect from what appears in the final version.

Director Byrd clearly entered this project with an inflated sense of what he was responsible for. Listening to his commentary and talking-head bits, I noticed that he constantly spouts off about his "vision" for the film and the sub-text his was trying to create; apparently not aware he was directing a dumb comedy about dumb people. If your movie has more breasts in it then a chicken farm, you are not making Citizen Kane, Jeff.

Nothing makes any sense in this movie. Malcolm King's company is said to be worth $25 million, but his lifestyle and office-space suggests a Bill Gates-like existence. We aren't even told what Malcolm's business is, or how anyone this crude and arrogant could manage to become a millionaire CEO by hiring bimbos for help around the office. When the original plan goes wrong, and other parties end up kidnapping Malcolm, he seems not to notice. If you were supposed to be kidnapped by one guy, and three women grabbed you, wouldn't you suspect something was up? And would the Chicago police really assign just two deadbeat cops to the kidnapping of a millionaire? Where's the FBI?

King's Ransom may have partly turned out so terrible in the end been due to Byrd's attempt to shoehorn an "R" rated movie into a PG-13 rating. On the "making of " featurette we see a round table discussion with the studio about what can and cannot be included in the actual film. On the commentary track director Byrd claims the script was always PG-13, but this scene clearly shows that was not the case. I can't say an "R" version of the film would have been any better, but at least they could have gone for broke on some of the jokes.

The acting, if one can call it that, is universally awful. Anthony Anderson is unappealing in his leading role; it's not clear if we are supposed to identify with him, or hope that he gets killed in the caper. Kidnapper Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire) channels the most obnoxious elements of Adam Sandler's persona into his performance as a basement-dwelling loser, and most of the women in the film must contend with roles that either makes them whores, bimbos, or outright stereotypes. Everyone here has done better work before and should remove this effort from their resumes ASAP.

This garbage looks and sounds great. New Line has given King's Ransom a 1:85:1 widescreen presentation, which is sharp and clear of defects. In the audio department, the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track is loud and well balanced, with no issues.

New Line has seen fit to package King's Ransom with a hefty package of extras. Considering this turkey was a box-office dud, I'm not sure why. 21 deleted scenes illustrate that director Jeff Byrd has no idea how to construct a film; many of the hanging plot lines of the film could have been easily wrapped up with a few inclusions found here. Also included are a gag reel, a 45-minute "making of" featurette, a trailer, and assorted New Line previews.

King's Ransom is also presented with a commentary track with director Jeff Byrd and actors Jay Mohr and Anthony Anderson. This has to be one of the most inadvertently funny commentaries I've ever experienced. Mohr seems to realize what a terrible movie this is, and spends most of the time mocking the efforts of director Jeff Byrd and accusing him of not having the stones to stand up to New Line during the filmmaking process. Byrd desperately attempts to get a word in edgewise on the comedians and convey what his "vision" for the picture had been. It doesn't work, and the viewer can only laugh as Byrd's frustration becomes more and more apparent.

Closing Statement

At this rate, Spike Lee won't be looking over his shoulder to see if Jeff Byrd is coming after him any time soon. I hate to say it, but it's time the movie industry stopped hiring music video directors as talent. For every David Fincher, there are ten Jeff Byrds. And nobody needs more of that.

The Verdict

Guilty as hell. New Line is sentenced to a life in prison for wasting such extensive special features on garbage like King's Ransom.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 80
Extras: 70
Acting: 20
Story: 15
Judgment: 20

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Bad
• Comedy
• Crime

Distinguishing Marks

• 21 deleted scenes
• Gag reel
• Film trailer
• New Line trailers
• Commentary with Director Jeff Byrd, actors Anthony Anderson and Jay Mohr
• Featurette -- King's Ransom: Down and Dirty


• IMDb

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