Blankman (1994) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual humor, language and violence
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Damon Wayans, David Alan Grier, Robin Givens, Jon Polito, Christopher Lawford, Lynne Thigpen, Jason Alexander, Nick Corello, Mike Binder (cameo), Greg Kinnear (cameo), Arsenio Hall (cameo)
Director: Mike Binder
Screenplay: Damon Wayans, J.F. Lawton
Review published February 18, 2006
Perhaps as a recurring skit on Wayans' hit TV show, In Living Color", Blankman might have proven worthy comical fare. As a full-length feature film, however, there just aren't enough clever ideas to sustain it. Considering the talent involved, with a screenplay by Wayans (Marci X, The Last Boy Scout) himself and direction from comedian Mike Binder (Londinium, The Upside of Anger), it's surprisingly mild on good laughs, and when the straight-man of the film (Grier, Boomerang) delivers the only consistent gags, you know there's something wrong with the comedic mix.
The film starts off with two young brothers, Darryl and Kevin, obsessed with their favorite fictional crime-fighter, Batman. As they grew up, Kevin became a well-adjusted normal guy, but Darryl still maintained his childlike outlook on the world, and continued exploring his affinity with low-budget inventions, with his latest a solution that allows fabric to be impervious to just about everything. When their grandmother (Thigpen) is brutally slain by crime boss Michael Minelli (Polito, Highlander) , Darryl vows to avenge crime wherever it happens, donning a homemade suit made up of bullet-proof material and hitting the streets looking for trouble. Blankman, as he is called because he couldn't come up with a name, becomes a sensation in the city, but Minelli is still on the prowl, and he is set on taking down the beloved Mayor (Lawford) once and for all.
Blankman has only one thing going for it, and that's the amiable performances by the performers. Wayans is cute in his caricature of nerd-extraordinaire Darryl, and despite his penchant for doing and saying annoying things, there is a likeability in the character that allows him to get away with his childish behavior. However, despite Wayans' memorable role, the film only ever really works when Grier is on screen, as he brings a sense of normal contrast to the outlandish behavior of the rest of the zany cast, and his reactions to Darryl's adventures does manage to generate some of the more clever insights. Sadly, once the quasi-love affair between Givens' (Head of State, A Rage in Harlem) news reporter character and Blankman emerges, his character goes into supporting mode, and the one funny angle (how relatives of superheroes cope with the grandiose schemes of their siblings) gets shelved for the duration.
Despite lots of energy from the cast, Blankman is marred by stupid humor and an inability to make its central plot the least bit interesting. All it ends up being is a collection of funny, oddball moments, feebly strung together, but never really generating any kind of comic or narrative momentum.
The opening scenes of the film has a younger version of Wayans' Darryl continuously trying to string together lots of cheesy contraptions to get his antenna TV to work, ultimately only responding when he sticks his foot in the toilet. Life imitates art, as Wayans', the screenwriter, finds himself also going in the toilet in trying everything possible to get this clunker of an idea for a superhero vehicle to work.
"Did you find the bomb yet?", Kevin asks when searching ladies' room toilets for explosives later in the film. "Not the one we're looking for", replies a sickened Wayans emerging from an obviously used stall.
Stick this one in your DVD player, and you'll find the bomb.
©2006 Vince Leo