Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Spike Lee|
|Produced by||Jon Kilik
|Written by||Spike Lee|
Jada Pinkett Smith
|Music by||Terence Blanchard|
|Editing by||Sam Pollard|
|Studio||40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Running time||135 minutes|
Bamboozled is a 2000 satirical film written and directed by Spike Lee about a modern televised minstrel show featuring black actors donning blackface makeup and the violent fall-out from the show's success. The film was given a limited release by New Line Cinema during the fall of 2000, and was released on DVD the following year.
Pierre Delacroix (whose real name is Peerless Dothan), (Damon Wayans) is an uptight, Harvard University-educated black man, working for a television network known as CNS (for "Continental Network System"). At work, he has to endure torment from his boss Thomas Dunwitty (Michael Rapaport), a tactless, boorish white man. Not only does Dunwitty talk like an urban black man, and use the word "nigger" repeatedly in conversations, he also proudly proclaims that he is more black than Delacroix and that he can use nigger since he is married to a black woman and has two mixed- race children. Dunwitty frequently rejects Delacroix's scripts for television series that portray black people in positive, intelligent scenarios, dismissing them as "Cosby clones".
Facing the necessity of either coming up with a hit black-centric show or being fired, Delacroix decides to aim for the latter. Delacroix would be in violation of his contract if he resigned, but getting fired would release him from it and allow him to seek work at another network. With help from his personal assistant Sloane Hopkins (Jada Pinkett Smith), Delacroix decides to pitch a minstrel show. Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show is complete with black actors in blackface, extremely racist jokes and puns, and even offensively stereotyped CGI-animated cartoons that caricature the leading stars of the new show. Delacroix develops the program believing that the network would reject such over-the-top racism and fire him immediately. Delacroix and Hopkins decide to recruit two impoverished street performers, Manray (Savion Glover, named after American artist Man Ray) and Womack (Tommy Davidson) -- homeless squatters who regularly perform outside CNS' headquarters building to star in the show. While Womack is horrified when Delacroix tells him details about the show, Manray willfully agrees to star in the show, seeing it as his big chance to become rich and famous for his tap-dancing skills.
To Delacroix's horror, not only does Dunwitty enthusiastically endorse the show, it also becomes hugely successful. As soon as the show premieres on television, Manray and Womack end up becoming big stars while Delacroix, contrary to his original stated intent, defends the show as being satirical. Delacroix quickly embraces the show and his newfound fame; he even wins awards for creating and writing the show, while Hopkins becomes horrified at the racist nightmare she has helped to unleash. In the meantime, an underground, militant rap group called the Mau Maus (presumably named after Mau Mau), led by Hopkins' older brother Julius (Mos Def), becomes increasingly angry at the content of the show. Though they had earlier auditioned for the program's live band position and were rejected, the group plan to bring the show down using violence. Eventually, Womack quits, fed up with the show and Manray's increasing ego. Manray and Hopkins thus grow closer, which angers Delacroix. Delacroix tries to break up Manray's relationship with Hopkins by accusing her of sleeping with Manray to further her career. Delacroix reveals that Hopkins only got her position as his assistant by sleeping with him. The move backfires and drives Manray and Hopkins even closer.
Hopkins creates a tape of racist footage culled from assorted movies, cartoons, television shows, and newsreels to try to shame Delacroix into stopping production of the show, but he refuses to view the tape. After an argument with Delacroix over all these differences, as well as realizing he is being exploited, Manray defiantly announces that he will no longer wear blackface. He appears in front of the studio audience, who are all in blackface, during a TV taping and does his dance number in his regular clothing. The network executives immediately turn against Manray, and Dunwitty (who is also wearing blackface) personally fires him from the show and throws him out of the studio.
The Mau Maus kidnap Manray, and then announce a plan to publicly execute Manray on a live webcast. The authorities work feverishly to track down the source of the internet feed, but Manray is nevertheless assassinated while doing his famous tap dancing (as a sort of sacrificial figure at his death). At his office, Delacroix (now in blackface make-up himself, mourning Manray's death) begins to fantasize the various coon-themed antique collectibles in his office staring him down and coming to life and goes into a rage, destroying many of the racist collectibles. The police quickly catch The Mau Maus, shooting them down in a hail of bullets. The camera lingers on their corpses, especially female rapper Smooth Blak's (Charli Baltimore) corpse. They leave only one survivor, a white member known as "One-Sixteenth Black" (MC Serch), who tearfully proclaims that he is "black" and demands to die with the rest of his group instead of being arrested. Furious, Hopkins confronts Delacroix at gunpoint with her brother's revolver and demands that he watch the tape she prepared for him. Delacroix, after watching the tape, tries to get the gun, but is shot in the stomach. Hopkins, horrified, flees while proclaiming that it was Delacroix's own fault that he got shot. Delacroix, after positioning the gun to make the gunshot wound to the stomach appear self-inflicted, watches the tape as he lies dying on the floor.
The film concludes with a long montage of racially insensitive and demeaning clips of black characters from Hollywood films of the first half of the 20th century. Some of the films used in the sequence are The Birth of a Nation, The Jazz Singer, Gone with the Wind, Babes in Arms, Holiday Inn, Judge Priest, Ub Iwerks' cartoon Little Black Sambo, Walter Lantz's cartoon Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat, the Screen Songs short Jingle Jangle Jungle, the Merrie Melodies short All This and Rabbit Stew, and, from the Hal Roach comedy School's Out, Our Gang kids Allen "Farina" Hoskins and Matthew "Stymie" Beard. After the montage, as the cameras point to Delacroix's dead body on the floor, the camera then shows Manray doing his last Mantan sequence on stage.
- Damon Wayans as Pierre Delacroix/Peerless Dothan
- Savion Glover as Manray/"Mantan"
- Jada Pinkett Smith as Sloan Hopkins
- Tommy Davidson as Womack/"Sleep 'n Eat"
- Michael Rapaport as Thomas Dunwitty
- Mos Def as Julius Hopkins/"Big Blak Afrika"
- Thomas Jefferson Byrd as "Honeycutt"
- Paul Mooney as Junebug
- Gano Grills as "Double Blak"
- Canibus as "Mo Blak"
- Charli Baltimore as "Smooth Blak"
- MC Serch as "One-Sixteenth Blak"
- The Roots as The Alabama Porch Monkeys
The content is intended as satirical, with its show within a show featuring its characters, all in blackface, performing in a watermelon patch. The Roots, a hip-hop band from Philadelphia, have a role as the show's house band, The Alabama Porch Monkeys. The audiences within the movie, initially baffled, come to love the show, and after a few episodes Hispanics, Asians, blacks, and even elderly white women show up in blackface and proclaim themselves "niggers".
One of Lee's tricks on the audience for his movie is that the performances of the show within a show are rendered with careful clear musicianship, timing, and dancing, all within the most stereotypical settings of cotton fields and watermelon feasts.
In a particular scene between Delacroix and New York radio talk show host Imhotep Gary Byrd (who plays himself) discussing critics and art, Delacroix makes a reference to the controversy surrounding the Sensation exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 where then-current Mayor Rudy Giuliani issued a lawsuit against British artist Chris Ofili's painting The Holy Virgin Mary. It depicted a Black Madonna alongside images from blaxploitation movies and close-ups of female genitalia cut from pornographic magazines, and elephant dung. Delacroix likens the painting as art and Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show as such.
The script expresses rage and grief at media representations of black people, largely through the eyes of its moral center, Sloan Hopkins. It also satirizes many icons of black culture including Ving Rhames (a dream sequence scene where Delacroix gives away his Academy Award to Matthew Modine spoofs Rhames's gifting his 1998 Golden Globe Award to Jack Lemmon), Will Smith (real-life husband of Jada Pinkett Smith), Johnnie Cochran, and Al Sharpton. Cochran and Sharpton appear as themselves in the film, protesting against the television series. It also seems to take aim at variety shows such as In Living Color, of which Davidson and Wayans were cast members (and is mentioned by Wayans' character in a discussion of African-American comedy routines). Bamboozled has a superficial similarity to the 1976 Oscar-winning film Network which is also about the frustrated employee of a television network who in an act of desperation creates a controversial television show. In both films, the show becomes extremely popular but begins a chain of events which spins violently out of control. Mantan's last words to the show's audience are based on Howard Beale's famous line "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" The plot also has a lot in common with the Mel Brooks masterpiece The Producers, which used satire about Nazism and the Jewish Holocaust in a similar over-the-top way. Its protagonists create a Broadway musical starring a fictional Adolf Hitler that is so offensive it is bound to lose money. This will lead to a huge tax shelter. The musical becomes a smash hit and makes a lot of money, instead of losing money as intended.
The character names given to Manray and Womack, "Mantan" and "Sleep n' Eat" respectively, are taken from names used by prominent vaudeville-era black actors Mantan Moreland and Willie Best. Years after this film's release, Lee went on the attack on director Tyler Perry, leading to a rift between the two filmmakers: he disapproved of Perry's showing black Americans as buffoons, which was no different from the actions of the characters presented in this film. Perry, in turn, attacked Lee's choice to follow the Hollywood line of being the director upholding Hollywood's commercial side and not being concerned with blacks characters in movies.
The soundtrack album for the film was released September 26, 2000 by Motown Records. The album consisted of hip hop and contemporary R&B, and was India.Arie's first time on an album, with six singles.
Bamboozled received mixed reviews; it currently holds a 48% 'rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Bamboozled is too over the top in its satire and comes across as more messy and overwrought than biting."
- Color Adjustment - a 1992 documentary film by Marlon Riggs about the portrayal of blacks in television
- Melvin Van Peebles' Classified X - a 1998 documentary film by Mark Daniels and Melvin Van Peebles about the history of blacks in cinema.
- "Bamboozled (2000)". Box Office Mojo. 2002-08-28. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- "CNN.com - Entertainment - 'Bamboozled' offers unblinking look at race, perceptions - October 4, 2000". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- KENNETH TURAN (2000-10-06). "Satire, Rage Add Up to Audacious 'Bamboozled' - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- Holden, Stephen (2000-10-06). "Movie Review - Bamboozled - FILM REVIEW; Trying On Blackface in a Flirtation With Fire - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- Bamboozled at Rotten Tomatoes
- ROBERT F. MOSS (1987-06-07). "Was Al Jolson 'Bamboozled'? - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
|Look up bamboozle in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Official website
- Bamboozled at the Internet Movie Database
- Bamboozled at AllMovie
- Bamboozled at Box Office Mojo
- Bamboozled at Rotten Tomatoes