Marci X (2003) / Comedy-Musical
MPAA Rated: R for language and sexual content
Running Time: 84 min.
Cast: Lisa Kudrow, Damon Wayans, Christine Baranski, Billy Griffith, Richard Benjamin, Paula Garces, Jane Krakowski, Veanne Cox, Sherie Rene Scott, Andrew Keenan Bolger
Director: Richard Benjamin
Screenplay: Paul Rudnick
Review published February 22, 2004
If Bringing Down the House is dumb, then Marci X is dumber, with another culture clash comedy that paradoxically tries to be anti-racist while exploiting the most outlandish stereotypes possible. Plagued with an overwhelming lack of authenticity, there's little truth to be found anywhere, and any satire which doesn't have at least a smidge of truth on its side is going to be in for a tough time trying to deliver laughs with any intelligence. No need to worry, however. As written by Paul Rudnick (In & Out, Addams Family Values) and director/actor Richard Benjamin (The Money Pit, Mermaids), it plays much more as a broad farce, and with the out-of-the-loop 40+-year-old screenwriter and 60+-year-old director painting the picture of hip hop superstars and materialistic, upper-crust New York women, acute observations seem permanently out of reach. At least Bringing Down the House had some street cred.
Marci Feld is your stereotypical JAP (Jewish American Princess), daughter of one of the most wealthy record label owners in the world. Her father Ben has come under attack because one of the offshoots of his company is a hip hop label that has an artist, Dr. $ (Wayans, The Last Boy Scout), who has become the biggest target by an outraged, conservative US senator (Baranski, Bowfinger), who has called for a boycott for all products produced by Feld Industries. When daddy has a heart attack, Marci seeks to save his company by trying to have Dr. $ tone down his act and issue a public apology for the foulness of his lyrics, but the hip hop giant has no plans to change the act that has brought him fame and fortune, and definitely doesn't want to sell out his rep.
Marci X has a good cast for a comedy, and the right look and feel, with vibrant colors and a storyline that moves on when it should. What it doesn't have are laughs, and try as everyone might, trying to force laughs where there aren't any makes it all the worse. Damon Wayans should have been much funnier, but the character is so thin, he is forced to play it as silly as possible, like a lisping, effeminate Snoop Doggy Dogg. The story angles are befuddling, playing as if Dr. $ is the envy of all his homies, which no one who acts as poofy as he does would be, while also being immensely attractive to all women, and he doesn't have the looks or good graces to be either. Kudrow (Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, TV's "Friends") herself can't do much with her one-dimensional character, other than like to shop and be completely dense when it comes to anything regarding hip hop culture. In one of the more painful moments, Kudrow busts a rap about the "Power of the Purse", supposedly freestyling for the first time, but it ends up obviously being just another egregious story contrivance.
For a film with so much music, you might be curious why there isn't a soundtrack available to purchase. Sitting through Marci X, I'm going to take an educated guess and say it's because the music is puerile garbage. Rap hasn't sounded like this in over ten years, and the street slang that everybody kicks is almost as dated. In fact, everything about the entire production feels old, having been spoofed countless times in previous movies, and on TV shows that Wayans had been involved in, "SNL" and "In Living Color". What's worse is that Dr. $'s music is incredibly tame by raunchy rap standards, so the creators couldn't even get any mileage out of the best chance for easy laughs.
Marci X should have been much funnier if it had been made by people who know the subject well, but instead of a biting insider's perspective, we have to deal with the stereotypes of outsiders looking in. Benjamin and Rudnick have no leg to stand on here, and the result is a daft, clueless mish-mash of uninspired hijinx and offensive innuendo. It tries to be the next Clueless, but succeeded more by definition than execution.
©2004 Vince Leo