It's sex, laughs, and one night stands.
Wannabe standup comic Terry is, basically, a complete idiot. He can't pay his $67 phone bill. He drives a car that has only one gear (reverse!) and he thinks he can make a substantial living Talkin' Dirty After Dark at Dukie's dive comedy club. Unfortunately, all of his jokes are about the vagina. To further prove his diminished mental capacity, he woos the owner's wife, the heffalumptuous Rubie-Lin, hoping she will pitch his pathetic crotch jokes to her vacant, no-account husband. And all she wants in return is a little of Terry's male sexual reproduction and/or healing. Not that Dukie's got his mind on business, unless it's hot passionate monkey love business with Aretha, the star attraction at his nightspot. Aretha is a self-important diva, the kind of empowered, uplifted black woman who feels secure in her abilities and possibilities. Oh yeah, and she has a 6' 8" 300 lb. bodybuilder boyfriend who guarantees that her arms will be plenty long enough to box with God. Add to this unhappy, horny multiple ménages a twits the questionably attractive Jimmie, the club MC who's hounded by fake breasted crackwhores as he tries to romance a dressed down damsel, and various talented and less comedians, and it's 86 minutes of dumb people acting stupidly and riffs about female genitalia.
Long before he found superstardom and the desire to spend his leisure time weeping on interstate highway embankments waving handguns at passers by, Martin Lawrence was a hungry, offensively funny comedian, known for hosting HBO's Def Comedy Jam and making a name for himself as one of the new breed of brave, ready to get raw and rude black humor poets. Made right before he became a television mainstay (with his self-named hit show) and a highly paid and promoted Hollywood action/comedy star, Talkin' Dirty After Dark is a tame, mostly unfunny day in the night of a inner city LA comedy club, complete with backstage politics, supposedly colorful characters, and strange bedfellows. Up until this film, Lawrence had been a welcome presence in countless bit parts, appearing in high profile projects like Do the Right Thing and the House Party series. This was his first chance at carrying a movie and his unsure but earnest presence is just about enough to support this lightweight loser fluff. But Talkin' Dirty After Dark strives to be more. It sees itself as a rowdy, randy behind the scenes look at the struggles of African Americans in the cutthroat world of open mic merriment. But it's really just a soap opera-ish sitcom with swear words, something that the WB or UPN or MTV would show in prime time with appropriate warnings and the occasional bleeped f-word. It fails as a comedy, a drama, and as a showcase for the gifted cast of unknowns trying their best to meander through this mild mess.
Talkin' Dirty After Dark also feels incredibly cheap, its low budget as obvious as its actors' inexperience in front of the camera. When Master P's personal home made movies like I Got the Hook-Up start looking like How Green Was My Valley, you know there are some very minor production values and amateur attitudes involved. Lawrence and the gang give it a good jive try, but the sloppy directing and overly convoluted plot lines constantly stifle them. Successful, funnier films like the Friday franchise and the recent Barbershop use their minimal stories as a foundation for a fun, frisky workout for the inventive comedians involved. Screen time here would have been better spent with more of the on-stage material. During their sets, the comedians acquit themselves adequately. But humor is also about timing and rhythm, and just when Lawrence or Mark Curry (Hanging with Mr. Cooper) build up a good head of standup steam, the movie slams back into the tale being told and the energy level of everything dies. Dated and antiquated, Talkin' Dirty After Dark also shows its age and era. A good indication of how 1990s this movie is can be seen in the costume design and musical soundtrack. The women all look and dress like Jackee, Jody Watley, or members of the C&C Music Factory (Everybody ACT now!), and rap is strangely absent from a film set entirely within the African American community. The boom boxes cruising through the neighborhood only play a kind of sickly sweet smooth R&B New Jack swing that would give Bobby Brown and Boyz II Men diabetes.
New Line Cinema's DVD treatment of Talkin' Dirty After Dark feels like an afterthought response to the growing phenomenon of Martin Lawrence and his ever-escalating box office drawing power. When pathetic so-called action comedies like Blue Streak and Black Knight consistently make millions, companies sitting on his existing unreleased material feel the need to get it out onto video shelves, to strike while the irony is hot and a maximized return can be gained from a little lost title recycling. It's a no-brainer (perfect for Hollywood). Ardent fans seek out this "lost gem" to retrace their hero's humble beginnings. Others will see its faux-BET ComicView format and think "this should be some funny blind buy DVD sh*t." But it's only product, pure and simple. Both the anamorphic widescreen image (at 1.85:1) and the optional full screen presentation (your choice) are soft and only occasionally compressed into a fog. The Dolby Digital surround is a little better, offering some good separation and nice nightclub atmosphere. But without a decent set of extras (all you get here are the self-promoting set of unrelated trailers that New Line incorporates under the misnamed feature called "All Access Pass"), there is no big difference between the digital presentation of Talkin' Dirty After Dark and a brand new VHS tape. Both offer a decent picture and sound. Both are equally filled with pro-studio ads. And both will contain a movie that could have been outlandish and entertaining, but is instead as cutting edge as an episode of Amen (and equally as irritating). The only foul mouth you'll hear "talkin' dirty" is your own, wondering why you bothered with this garbage.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Theatrical Trailers
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