The Cookout May 1, 2020 16:20:04 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on May 1, 2020 16:20:04 GMT -5
The Cookout (2004)
Directed by: Lance Rivera
Directed by: Lance Rivera
The Cookout appears as if it were assembled from clips of a sitcom that barely managed to see an unaired pilot come to fruition. It's a random, unfunny evisceration of what could've been an enjoyable, light-hearted project with the backdrop being a family cookout. I could picture it. Had the film adopted any sense of humanity, it might've been passable. What we're left with it is a comic miscalculation with caricatures, not characters, meandering in a story tied together with a moralistic theme that would make Tyler Perry cringe.
Directed by Lance Rivera, whose biggest claim to fame was getting stabbed by Jay-Z at a party in the late nineties, the film revolves around Todd Anderson, played by Quran Pender (credited as Storm P) — whose own personal saga following this film is far more interesting than anything that happens here, but I'll get to that later. Todd is the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and is headed to the New Jersey Nets with a $30 million contract. He's a kind soul who comes from a stable family comprised of his strong-willed mother (Jenifer Lewis) and gee-whiz father (Frankie Faison). However, his mother knows her son is biting off more than he can chew when he burns a great deal of his money before receiving it while abruptly introducing his folks to his new girlfriend, Brittany (Meagan Good), an obvious gold digger.
Todd buys a mansion in a predominately white gated community, and his mother believes that there would be no better way to christen the new home than with a family cookout — an Anderson family tradition. The timing couldn't have been worse seeing as Todd and his agent (Jonathan Silverman, Weekend at Bernie's) are planning on sitting down with a rep to secure a lucrative endorsement deal. The entire dysfunctional family gets together for the backyard gathering, much to the dismay of the community's security guard (Queen Latifah in a thankless role). Unbeknownst to Todd, two goons (Ja Rule and Ruperto Vanderpool) who used to play pickup ball with the now-NBA rookie are hungry for his cash and are plotting to rob him at the party.
If there were a record for the most racial stereotypes in a single film, The Cookout would presumably be close to the top for its embarrassing number of inclusions. Consider Farrah Fawcett — her final role, in one of the saddest ways to end a film career that I can think of — who plays a wealthy housewife and tells her African-American husband (Danny Glover) that "Negroes" are in the neighborhood after seeing Todd's closest kin show up to his home. Glover, on the other hand, is a square judge who later embraces the image of stereotypical black youth. Spoiler: all it takes is weed. The affable brothers Jamal and Jerod Mixon — who you might recognize if you're like me and continue to watch comedies of questionable value — are your typical ne'er-do-well dopes, although their laidback approach to already flimsy material fits in a way that complements the low-grade picture. Tim Meadows plays a would-be lawyer had he not failed the Bar exam a record number of times. His monologue about how golf and hockey are subtly racist sports would be amusing if it wasn't handled with a tone of incredulity. Rapper Eve shows up late for an earnest performance, and having her be the rock of the film for more than just one brief cameo might've alleviated this often oppressive bunch of stale characters.
Quran Pender had a self-inflicted fall from grace after The Cookout and its 2011 sequel failed to kickstart anything remotely close to a successful acting career. Him and some friends devised a plan to traffic cocaine from Los Angeles to Pender's homeland of Queens. Early into their stint as drug dealers, Pender wound up unintentionally being the middleman in a setup, getting his friend to go to what he thought would be a meeting to retrieve over $160,000 in cash that resulted in his friend being killed execution-style in broad daylight. Pender served a five-year jail sentence in exchange for information leading to one of his associates being found responsible for the hit, which landed him 85-to-life. Pender was, too, working as a middle school teacher during the time he was involved in this bicoastal cocaine operation.
That's a dark note to bring up in a review regarding the epitome of a cheap comedy, but it's the point of interest that made me want to watch the film after loosely keeping it in mind since it came out in 2004. Pender is easily the most likable presence in The Cookout, and harbors a Paul Walker-brand of handsome coolness that could've connected with the masses if more prominent film roles came his way. He even rocked the Kawhi Leonard-look years before Leonard ever set foot onto a college or professional basketball court. Despite Pender only being in his early 40s at this point, his life is sadly another story that ends with the words "what could've been." The same can be said for The Cookout.
Starring: Storm P, Jenifer Lewis, Meagan Good, Danny Glover, Queen Latifah, Frankie Faison, Ja Rule, Ruperto Vanderpool, Jonathan Silverman, Tim Meadows, Eve, Farrah Fawcett, Jamal Mixon, and Jerod Mixon. Directed by: Lance Rivera.