House Party 2 (1991) / Comedy
aka House Party 2: The Pajama Jam
MPAA Rated: R for language, some mild violence and sexual humor
Running time: 94 min.
Cast: Christopher Reid, Christopher Martin, Tisha Campbell, George Stanford Brown, Martin Lawrence, Kamron, Bow-Legged Lou, Paul Anthony, B-Fine, Queen Latifah, Christopher Judge, Iman, Tony Burton, Helen Martin, William Shallert, Whoopi Goldberg, Ralph Tresvant, Tony Toni Tone
Director: George Jackson, Doug McHenry
Screenplay: Rusty Cundieff, Daryl G. Nickens
Review published June 14, 2006
The surprise hit House Party earned a sequel one year later, continuing the adventures of rappers Kid n Play after they've just graduated high school. Kid (Reid) is off to college, the same one as attended by his girlfriend Sidney (Campbell), while his best friend, Play (Martin), is busy trying to coerce Kid to push for a lucrative career as rap artists. Through a mishap, Kid ends up losing his money to a con artist posing as a music promoter (Iman, No Way Out), and in the process, loses all of Kid's tuition money. What to do? Throw another house party and use the proceeds to help out Play's scholarship fund, of course!
Whereas House Party did everything right in terms of creating an atmosphere of fun, friendship and positivity, this sequel undoes nearly all of it. First off, it's not fun. The screenplay by Rusty Cundieff (Fear of a Black Hat) and Daryl G. Nickens contrives all sorts of pressures for Kid N Play, from being swindled, to feminist girlfriend issues, to what it is to be Black, to having to try to scrape by for every dollar. While we may have liked these characters when they were carefree teenagers, which I think was the main point of why House Party was a delight, seeing them try to jump through increasingly difficult hoops to re-establish their need for happiness brings forth tedium, and wholly contrived tedium at that.
It also takes quite a while to get to the "house party" of the title, and then, it isn't even a house party. It's more of a dance concert where completely broke-as-a-joke 18-year-olds can somehow afford to throw the party of the year, and also invite red-hot (at the time) New Jack Swing artists like Ralph Tresvant and Tony Toni Tone to perform live. Truth be told, it is only during these scenes that this sequel starts to capture some of the pleasures of its predecessor, but even that becomes undone by the needless re-emergence of the gang of idiots played by Full Force, who are forcefully injected into the story when they get jobs as campus security guards, to come bust the show.
The makers of House Party 2 also shoehorn in a great deal of messages on being Black and needing to be responsible. While this would seem like a positive thing overall, it's far from subtle, and overly manipulative, to the point where the characters are all out of whack. Eventually, a conclusion is drawn up that people should just be themselves regardless of what other people think, which might be a valid point if not for the fact that the screenwriters won't allow the characters to be themselves without seeing them as vehicles for lots of politicizing and grandstanding on the nature of racism, feminist empowerment, and the constant quest for individualism at any cost. In short, we've come to the joint to party and are given a lecture instead.
I do find it interesting that the film pushes forth the notion of women finding strength to be more than what society tells them, and then uses them just for eye-candy fodder at the party near the film's climax. The party isn't just a party but a "pajama jammie jam" where people wear their pajamas to the shindig, which in the case of most of the hot women means negligees, camisoles and other skimpy attire. In fact, the entire premise of the party is that they are trying to lure men to going to it by exploiting the fact that half-naked women are going to be all over it. Even the militant feminist of the film, Zora (Latifah, Sphere), ends up supporting this skin show by attending. Personally speaking, I really don't mind any of this, but if I'm going to be preached to for 90+ minutes, I want it to be from people who firmly believe in what they are saying.
However, as bad as all of these things are, there is absolutely nothing worse than the use of sound effects they cram into this movie. Completely trite sound bits are added, as if we wouldn't know that the bits are funny if not for all of the "zonks", "zoops" and "zings" the sound guys add to nearly every hand movement the characters make. They're right about one thing: we wouldn't know that these bits are funny, probably because they aren't. These audio punctuations only point out just how feeble the slapstick is by letting us know that about 100 "funny" parts go by without a chuckle to show for them.
Summing up House Party 2, if House Party were as funny, vibrant, and hip as "The Cosby Show", House Party 2 is as vacant, manufactured, and faux-politically correct as the Cosby spin-off, "A Different World". As the lyrics state in the jam performed by Tony Toni Tone, "House Party II - I Don't Know What You've Come to Do", I came to party, stamp my feet, etc. It's the people throwing this party that came not knowing what they wanted to do.
-- Followed by House Party 3 and House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute.
©2007 Vince Leo