April 20, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Bamboozled

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
135 minutes
Limited Release Date
10/06/00
Wide Release Date
10/20/00
performer
Savion Glover, Jada Pinkett Smith, Damon Wayans, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Sarah Jones (Writer), Paul Mooney, Mos Def, Michael Rapaport, Gillian Iliana Waters
director
Spike Lee
Producers
40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks
distributor
New Line Cinema
author
Spike Lee
genre
Drama, Comedy

After repeated viewings, Spike Lee’s Godard-style blast of social commentary still seems to be both his subtlest movie and his most ham-handed, as well as his most personal. It is an essay in the form of a media satire: Seeking to destroy his own career, Wayans’ network executive dreams up a sketch show performed in blackface (by success-hungry street artists played, with savvy scrappiness, by Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson), a premise which sets up rude riffing on the bizarre racial negotiations that define identity in America. The movie’s trigger-happy conclusion still feels like a narrative cop-out, and its backstage-melodrama romance still looks like clutter. But on its own terms — those of social critique and nightmare absurdism — Bamboozled holds up as wondrous pop agitprop.

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