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Case Number 04740: Small Claims Court

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Super Spy

Warner Bros. // 2000 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // July 8th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Bill Gibron might actually convince you to watch this abomination.

The Charge

Welcome to the cheapest movie ever made.

The Case

Sherlock wants to be a screenwriter. Instead of going to med school, where his inability to think coherently is apparently not a handicap, he takes some of his study money and heads out to La-La Land to become the next Shane Black. And since he's African American, he's already halfway there. Too bad it's not the portion with the degree in plot development. Hooking up with a shiftless agent and a fried chicken magnate / producer, Sherlock hopes to helm his high concept to a blockbuster payoff. His dream? A $50 million spy flick about a minority James Bond. Only problem is, the coffers contain $6,800. And the lead actor / African espionage God is being played by none other than 'Lock's big brother, a hometown Elvis impersonator.

With Sherlock's crafty, near-criminal crew hooked up, and his cast of creative cretins at the ready, the first day of shooting turns out to be special. No, Sherlock and the gang don't make motion picture history. They make the Evening News: they filmed a local gemstone store robbery in progress, a crime in which $10 million in jewels was jacked. Now the cops, the CIA, and the criminals all want that footage. But it will take more than death threats, drive-by shootings and sexual seductions for the various nefarious elements to get their hands on the film cans. See, nothing will stop this amateur action movie maker from getting his film 008, The Final Exit: Bond Lives made and eventually seeing the light of a screening room, even if they do end up changing the name to Super Spy.

Super Spy is either the greatest independent movie ever made or the biggest intentional turd ever laid by a cinematically inept moviemaker since Dale Resteghini located the viewfinder on his camcorder. A.J. Jamal, who used to be a kind of non-codpieced Cameo of controversial stand-up during the early days of Comedy Central (he hosted an urban outlet for young angry talent called Comic Justice), has written and directed—or at least according to the credits he scripted and helmed—what has to be the most confusing movie ever made. Not Mulholland Dr. confusing. Not even the "love conquers all" version of Brazil baffling. No, Super Spy manages a level of outright perplexity that would make Stephen Hawking's unified theory of the universe seem like a pop song by Jem and the Holograms.

Akin to explaining the subtleties of Chopin to Avril Lavigne, or asking Paris Hilton for help on your trigonometry final, sitting through Super Spy without once scratching your head in befuddled disbelief and abject bewilderment could be the new test for Mensa applicants. Anyone who can solve this cinematic conundrum needs to be working in a think tank somewhere, now. You see, something savant-like must be going on with this muddled movie mess. How else would you explain the almost completely absent competence at all levels of the filmmaking, from shot selection to craft services? No one could accidentally make a movie this misguided and not be functioning on a higher cognitive level of thinking—or at least under the mind control of poop chute-scouring aliens with diarrhea for brains sending subliminal messages about movie making. Super Spy is the next evolution in cinema, like neorealism without the angst, or the French New Wave without all the body odor.

About as artistically stunted as a D&D dungeon master's sex life, and riddled with more continuity errors than Ed Wood ever conceived, even from beyond the grave, this is the classic example of a "who gives a crap" creation. You know the kind of movie this is: for everything it gets so wrong—that makes the Dalai Lama curl up in the fetal position or the Olsen twins consider law school—this movie just forges ahead saying "fudge it" to the humongous horse flops it leaves behind. The script is so full of plot holes that the Information Superhighway Commission has condemned it as completely impassable? Who gives a crap? The narrative is so incoherent that you can't tell the difference between a flashback, a dream, the film's story itself, or the movie-within-the-movie being made? Who gives a crap? Director A.J. Jamal—proving he's a better comedian than a cinematographer, and when's the last time you heard his name mentioned on BET, huh?—frames his full screen images in such tight medium shots that actors' heads, feet, sides, arms, legs, hair, and whole personages are cut off? Who gives a crap? And the acting ranges from ridiculous to racist within the span of a single setup? Who really gives a crap? Indeed, Super Spy takes shots at Mexicans and Latinos so often you'd swear it was the border patrol, or at least a rival street gang. Obviously applying an "offend everyone" blaxploitation mentality (no one ever accused Dolemite of being subtle), gays are portrayed by a God-awful limp-wristed, drag-hag, lisping-like-a-loose-gasket representative, women are rendered booty-calling playthings without a single redeeming feature, and blacks are constantly considered shiftless and intent on criminality.

And yet—and it's gonna be hard to believe—this catastrophe of a cinemistake is impossibly watchable. Now, a car wreck is also entertaining in a sick kind of twisted-metal way, and so is that weird porn where ladies sit back and let men massage their mam…um, perhaps another time. Anyway, Jamal's complete ineptness behind the camera turns Super Spy into that delightfully delicious camp creation, the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons "just too good to be true, can't take my eyes off you" celebration of the ludicrously lamentable—otherwise known as a JTGTBTCTMEOY joint. From the first few frames, in which original ex-SNLer Garrett Morris proves where his residual checks are, to the closing credits filled with in-jokes and outright sight gags (either somebody's parents had a poor sense of humor, or a lot of the cast and crew have horrible fake names), this is a movie that switches off your frontal lobes, loosens your usually mid-level critical standards, and reduces the lowest common denominator to a wart on an infected ant's underside. In combination with a couple of clever moments (the grape Kool-Aid riff is right on the funny money), a healthy disrespect for the basic requirements of a movie, and the constant catering to stereotypes (everyone drinks 40s and gulps down deep-fat-fried pullet), Super Spy is so defiant in its disregard of picture protocol that you can't help but marvel at its gratuitous ganas. With an inferred chase scene, an overpompadoured leading man, and enough dream sequences to keep David Lynch drunk for days, this is independent filmmaking at its most resplendent—and retarded.

Not only does Super Spy play badly, it looks even worse. Whoever drafted this transfer should be demoted to dyspeptic dog kennel cleaner pronto before he or she is allowed to touch another supposed motion picture. Soft, dark, indistinct, and riddled with coddled color correction, a leper with his ligaments removed could master a better 1.33:1 image than the one presented here. It's hard to even tell what's going on half the time, since the amalgamation of A.J.'s jagged frames with a print paralyzed in the putrid makes Super Spy even more of a chore to explore. The sound is also unnerving. When it comes to the latest combination of sampled shizzle, pretty hot and tempting beats, and a long laundry list of gangland nursery rhymes, the soundtrack actually enhances the Dolby Digital Stereo. But once the actors speak, the aural aspects go flat and the lack of depth destroys any mood the movie may have managed. Hoping to heft the salability of this tainted DVD title, Warner Bros. and Urban Entertainment bet the house on the bonus content included. First off, Jamal shows he has some standup skills in a 47-minute concert featurette from 1998. Just the comic and his crowd, Jamal runs the joke gamut from ethnic foods to the differences between whites and blacks (go figure). While it's a lot funnier than the faux farce he scripted and directed, Jamal's amphitheater antics just can't match Super Spy for mind-bending brashness.

Then there is the trailer, which manages the impossible—it makes a mystifying movie twice as confounding. Finally, Jamal and Slick Mango, AKA Yul Spencer, spend the entire running time of the film calling out the continuity errors, accusing each other of employing the casting couch for many of the actress choices, and generally congratulating each other on a grand job very well done as part of a crazy commentary track. That these two geniuses can justify calling their creation "great" when they've just finished pointing out how a pair of headphones magically "disappeared" off the head of a performer is the height of chutzpah. But Jamal and Spencer do it over and over again, until eventually you believe it too.

This is why Super Spy survives. Like that loser that wanders out into a minefield with full knowledge that he'll never blow up, this homemade monstrosity will simply continue marching along, taking all the slings and arrows cast at it with good-natured insipidness. Like Willie Tyler and Lester, or the continued existence of mime, Super Spy just won't die. So you might as well sit back and enjoy the lowest, lamest work of brilliance ever brought to the screen. And if it does turn out to be just a bad movie, science should still dissect its major elements. There's some mofo mojo coming out of this movie…and it's messing with your mind.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary by Director A.J. Jamal and Actor Yul Spencer
• Trailers
• Comedy Concert by A.J. Jamal


• IMDb

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