We gave it a C
Though it began only in 1991 with New Jack City, the gangsta movie has become such a cinematic staple that it’s ripe for ridicule, and the genre gets its share in the scattershot satire Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. Shawn Wayans plays Ashtray (a goof on Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Tre in Boyz N the Hood), a straight arrow who’s bent on escaping the violent Los Angeles environment that helped to create his wild-eyed, hair-trigger cousin Loc Dog (Marlon Wayans, in full Menace II Society regalia). An encyclopedic knowledge of the oeuvre isn’t required to understand many of the broad jokes, but it wouldn’t hurt (e.g., when Ashtray’s grandmother suddenly pops up in whiteface with guns blazing, it’s a comic homage to the Hughes brothers’ Dead Presidents).
Don’t Be a Menace is at its best when puncturing the preachiness of John Singleton’s films (big brother Keenen Ivory Wayans appears in a cameo after each weepy, didactic speech to announce, ”Message!”). The movie has its own pointed moments, as when a group of LAPD officers revel in a videogame version of the Rodney King beating. Most of the gags, though, are too dopey (Ashtray’s father is younger than he is) or disgusting (Loc Dog hits on an attractive woman but gets turned off when she picks her nose) to pack much punch.
Occasionally, Don’t Be a Menace strays from its primary targets to make fun of non-hood films, with equally mixed results. The overheated sex scenes in Body of Evidence and 9 1/2 Weeks are smartly skewered when Ashtray and his girlfriend (Tracey Cherelle Jones) make love on the kitchen floor and she melts government cheese on his chest, though Hot Shots! staged a similar bit. A Stand by Me send-up in which a bunch of kids discover Elvis’ semi-nude, flatulent corpse seems random, not to mention repulsive.
Shawn and Marlon (who also cowrote the script with Phil Beauman) are clearly aiming to make a ’90s companion to Keenen’s ’70s-blaxploitation parody, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Unfortunately, there are fewer genuine laughs to be found in Don’t Be a Menace than there are words in its title.C