Uptown gets down!
Filmed in 2001 and shelved until its all-too-brief August 2003 theatrical run, Marci X has been unfairly labeled a stinker, even by this reviewer. Watching it on DVD made me realize that label is wrong. By no means is it a great film. However, it is an entertaining comedy that will leave the viewer smiling at the conclusion.
Facts of the Case
Gangsta rapper Dr. S. (Damon Wayans, My Wife and Kids) has released a controversial new rap album. So controversial that the intense backlash and subsequent stock tumble has hospitalized label owner Ben Feld (Richard Benjamin, who also directed). His daughter Marci (Lisa Kudrow, Friends) decides to take matters into her own hands. She appears at a Dr. S concert and tries to reason with him in a rap "showcase" and several other unorthodox methods. But she didn't count on one personal development occurring.
Before I begin my comments about Marci X, I wish to make a note. Many of the characters in Marci X are based on real-life people. Those familiar with many of these exploits will recognize who is who, but for those who have spent the past decade living under a rock, here is a thumbnail guide:
• Dr. S = P. Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur
Richard Benjamin's directorial career began well with great films—My Favorite Year, Racing With the Moon, and The Money Pit. But in recent years, he had stumbled with such flops as Little Nikita, Milk Money, and Made in America. I'm happy to report that Benjamin is back to making good theatrical films again. Maybe his working exclusively on TV movies for the last few years helped him regain the focus he displayed in his early features. His direction is simple and honest; he pays attention more to character than plot, and works with his actors to get the best performances possible.
I must admit that the film work of Lisa Kudrow has left me cold in the past. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion was terrible. Her character in both Analyze pictures was shrill and irritating, not to mention unfunny. Lucky Numbers didn't fare much better. I have always thought she had talent; it's just that her choice of film vehicles left much to be desired. (Give her credit; at least she's doing her best not to simply recreate Phoebe.) With Marci X, she finally finds the perfect role and the right tone—midway between sincerity and utter cluelessness. Her attempts at rapping are absolutely hilarious. Damon Wayans is also hilarious as Dr. S, one part P. Diddy, one part Snoop Dogg and one part Tupac. The Wayans family is always a guarantee for at least a few good laughs, and Damon provides plenty of the best moments in Marci X. My mom had a bone to pick with some of his white-oriented jokes. I should have shown her B*A*P*S. Then she would reappraise the Wayans, Martin Lawrence, and Bernie Mac type of comic rant as the high art it is rather than the race card for which it is often mistaken.
Richard Benjamin, in his few scenes, is at his neurotic best, almost letting us forgive him for Portnoy's Complaint. Now that I think about it, that film's failure wasn't his fault after all. All the roles are well cast and performed except for Christine Baranski's vindictive senator (if you want a hint of what a Joe Lieberman presidency would be like, watch Baranski's scenes) it's so half-baked and overacted that she could be a contender for the Grayson Hall Memorial Award.
Marci X, in tone and spirit, resembles Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, Frank Tashlin's 1957 comedy starred Tony Randall as a meek advertising man who, when given a chance to take things into his own hands, grabs it. Tashlin's film was a merciless satire of the advertising world, smart and funny with the courage to offend and go for broke. I mention this because the main weakness of Marci X is that Paul Rudnick's screenplay doesn't go as far as it should. The first half of the film seems to be heading in the right direction. In fact, I was smiling with the anticipation of what was ahead. I was disappointed when the film took a dramatic left turn toward a conventional romance. But even that cliché can be brought to vivid life. Tashlin's film used such a romance to make even more pointed satire and to take off in all sorts of unexpected directions. I missed that lack of direction in Marci X. It could have been a groundbreaking comedy. What we get is partly biting and partly sweet, and the two do not click as well as they could.
Paramount offers us our choice of viewing formats: pan-and-scan for those still stubborn enough to support that format, or a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I'd urge anyone reading this to stick with the widescreen version. Paramount does their usual good work with the video. It looks clean, with minimal grain and defects to be found. Colors look fine with the exception of reds and oranges, which tend to bleed when on screen.
Paramount also offers us a choice of audio formats: stereo surround sound, in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0. It doesn't matter which one you pick, because both sound equally superb through even the most primitive sound system.
Then again, considering this film didn't get much of a chance in theaters, the resource material must still sparkle, so of course a DVD presentation is going to look fantastic.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Extras? "We don't need no stinkin' extras" must be the corporate mantra of Paramount. Yes, folks. This is yet another barebones disc. Not a single extra is to be found here. Why the theatrical trailer isn't included is a mystery, since it's received nearly 'round-the-clock showings at my local Best Buy on their display TVs.
The suggested retail price is $27.99 for Marci X. I cannot recommend it as a purchase at that price. I could see paying $14.95 for it, though. But since that isn't going to happen any time soon, a rental remains the best option.
With a nod to Judge Patrick Naugle and his review of Leprechaun: Back in Tha Hood , I will deliver my final remarks in the form of a rap:
Yo, yo, yo
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