When the ticket-taker shakes his head to warn you about the movie you're going to see, you can't help thinking you're in for a lousy film. And, sure enough, he was right about this one. "I'll deny I've seen it," my husband said to me as we walked out of the theater lobby. The movie in question? Marci X, co-starring Lisa Kudrow as the spoiled daughter of a wealthy Jewish businessman and Damon Wayans as the gangsta rapper she tries to tame in order to save her father's corporate interests.
Because both Kudrow (from TV's Friends) and Wayans (Blankman) are talented comic actors, naļve as I am, I expected to be reasonably entertained by this flick. Besides, it's directed by Richard Benjamin, who helmed one of my all-time fave comedies, My Favorite Year. And witty Paul Rudnick wrote the screenplay. He's the guy who penned the hilarious In and Out a few years ago. What happened to everyone here?
Kudrow looks stiff and uncomfortable, even when she's supposed to be "gettin' down and real;" Wayans adopts a tiny, annoying voice; the plot appears completely ridiculous; and the whole thing seems more like a series of tired burlesque sketches than a movie. Raunchy musical numbers and demeaning stereotypes overwhelm the film's feeble attempts at social satire about censorship and cultural diversity.
It hurts to see fine supporting cast members like Christine Baranski and Jane Krakowski lower themselves in material like this. Baranski (Chicago) portrays a right-wing senator out to stop "Dr. S" (Wayans) and his crude rap music. Toward the end of the film, she does a stupid strip-tease number that will probably embarrass her for a long time to come. Krakowski (formerly of TV's Ally McBeal), fresh from her Broadway Tony win (for Nine), gets pushed into the background here as one of Kudrow's silly socialite girlfriends.
And those dreadful musical numbers! "The Power in My Pants" starts things out on the wrong note right away. Then it's full-speed downhill from there. A song about celibacy is turned into one about homosexuality, and an African tribal dance ends up in a cat fight cheered on by the crowd. As the world's most avid movie musical fan, all I can do is object -- vehemently!
Marci X's lack of humor emerges as the most glaring of all its faults. Lines like "My mother was a slave -- at Wendy's" and "You Jews, who needs Santa Claus?" come from left field, evoking little laughter. When Kudrow's character tells the gangsta rapper he looks like her Aunt Esther in his expensive fur coat, that's the closest I came to smiling during the entire movie.
No, I take that back. I smiled broadly during the closing credits.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "R' for language and sexual content.)