By Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 20, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Death of a Dynasty


Sometimes, too much is about the right size. Case in point: Death of a Dynasty, an amiably raucous, scorched-earth mockumentary about the Roc-A-Fella hip-hop kingdom under the proprietorship of CEO Damon Dash, who also directed, and rapper Jay-Z. (How mogulicious is Dash? This is his second big-screen release in almost as many weeks, following State Property 2.) The Dynasty notion introduces Dave Katz (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, driving the picture with his goofy jigga earnestness), a fictional, nerdy, white rock journalist who hitches his own pimped-out career wagon to the fortunes of the Roc-A-Fellas and their mile-long entourage. Dave positions himself in the posse and two-times his own Source-like employer by feeding gossip items around town, enjoying all-area access to the living-large lifestyle. But as he yo-yo-yos his way into parties dressed in Ali G drag, what Dave doesn’t know is that he’s being punk’d.

Anyhow, the snickering, phooey-on-the-media nose-thumbing with which the movie concludes isn’t where its playful heart is at: The main event is the way real players play bigger-than-real versions of their own personas, as if dressing for a Halloween party in playa threads — and none with more élan and charm than Dash and Jay-Z themselves. The combined quotient of celebs playing themselves or characters just like themselves is deliriously high (the guest list includes Walt Frazier, Riddick Bowe, Chloë Sevigny, Rashida Jones, Dr. Dre, Duncan Sheik, Run-DMC), and the for-real rappers who go along with the send-up are, to a man, charming naturals at goofing on their own lifestyles. (Sin City‘s Devon Aoki conjures all skinny, blank-faced pretty rapper molls everywhere.)

Death of a Dynasty is one instance where the blurred line between drama, documentary, and Spiñal Tap-inflected parody is the movie’s best asset. (Is that a real invasion-of-the-Hamptons party — the neighbors’ worst nightmare — or a mock?) Only when he tries to make a didactic point about the collusion between art and commerce does Dash violate his own dictum: ”at the end of the day, it’s all hip-hop.”

Death of a Dynasty

  • Movie
  • R
  • 91 minutes
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