King's Ransom (2005) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude humor, sexual humor and language
Running time: 95 min.


Cast: Anthony Anderson, Jay Mohr, Kellita Smith, Nicole Ari Parker, Regina Hall, Loretta Devine, Donald Faison, Leila Arcieri, Charles Q. Murphy, Brooke D'Orsay, Jackie Burroughs, Lisa Marcos
Director: Jeff Byrd
Screenplay: Wayne Conley
Review published May 3, 2005

An ensemble cast revolving around a kidnapping plot of an unpopular boss sounds suspiciously like Ruthless People, except the humor here isn't nearly of the same quality.  The story revolves around the rich womanizing playboy Malcolm King (Anthony Anderson, Agent Cody Banks 2), who literally turned one dollar into millions in a rags to riches story that ultimately ended up with him forgetting where he came from.  His wife is leaving him, threatening to take half his company and possessions, while he has women working below him upset that he has passed them over for promotions, giving a cush job to his under qualified buxom secretary (Regina Hall, Scary Movie 3) he is having an affair with.   Meanwhile, a down-and-out loser named Corey (Jay Mohr, Are We There Yet?) is also upset that he can't get a job or even an interview with King's company.  All this leads up to is a group of unrelated people plotting to kidnap King in order to squeeze some money out of him they think they deserve.  The hook here is that King himself also happens to have plotted his own kidnapping, in a half-baked scheme to get his gold-digging wife to back off, and while he is being abducted, he thinks it's all part of his plan, not realizing he is kidnapped for real.

King's Ransom is a lowbrow comedy of errors that has a few moments of humor, but is undone by long stretches where nothing funny is going on.  When there aren't any inspired gags (which is about 90% of the time), director Jeff Byrd (Jasper Texas, Truth Be Told) and his troupe of actors decide to crank up the noise level, whether through shouting or its nonstop urban soundtrack. 

Stereotypes abound, but that's the least of King's Ransom's troubles, as the few laughs it is able to generate aren't enough to cover over the formulaic, all-too-familiar storyline.  The plotting is messy, the situations nonsensical, and the characters lack any dimension other than for contrived confrontations. 

It does run at a fast clip, and with all of the energy from the eager performers, the film never drags.  Unfortunately, the gags by first-time screenwriter Wayne Conley can't support a full-length feature, and it sure doesn't help that the cast ad-libs its own share of sex and potty humor to make up for it.  King's Ransom may have started with a high-concept idea, but the lack of solid foundation accelerated its descent into a stupid farce all too quickly once the cameras started to roll.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo