Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Spike Lee|
|Produced by||Spike Lee|
|Screenplay by||Joie Susannah Lee
|Story by||Joie Susannah Lee|
|Music by||Terence Blanchard|
|Editing by||Barry Alexander Brown|
|Studio||40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||May 13, 1994|
|Running time||115 minutes|
Crooklyn is a 1994 semi-autobiographical film co-written and directed by Spike Lee. The film takes place in Brooklyn, New York and the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant during the summer of 1973. Its primary focus is a young girl, Troy (played by Zelda Harris), and her family. Throughout the film, Troy learns life lessons through her four rowdy brothers, her loving but strict mother (Alfre Woodard), and her naive, struggling father (Delroy Lindo).
A distinctive characteristic of Crooklyn is its soundtrack, composed completely of music from the 1970s, except the hit single "Crooklyn" by the Crooklyn Dodgers, a rap crew composed of Buckshot, Masta Ace and Special Ed. A two-volume release of the soundtrack became available on CD along with the release of the film.
Crooklyn is one of only two films directed by Spike Lee to earn a PG-13 rating in the USA, the other being 1992's Malcolm X.
The movie opens with scenes of a racially mixed neighborhood and their various activities, like hand rhymes, double Dutch, tag, street races, and even the neighborhood children watching the teenagers of their block make out in the alleyways of their block. Nine-year-old Troy (Zelda Harris) and her older brothers Clinton (Carlton Williams), Wendell (Sharif Rashed), Nate (Chris Knowings), and her younger brother, Joseph (Tse-Mach Washington) are introduced as their father Woody (Delroy Lindo) is blowing a horn to call them in from playing to eat dinner. Their mother, Carolyn (Alfre Woodard) is introduced as well. Dinner takes place during which we find out that the Carmichaels' next-door neighbor, "Tony Eyes" (David Patrick Kelly) seems to be somewhat of a nuisance to the family, which includes continuously singing while they are eating dinner. That night, Carolyn comes home and comedically wakes all of the children up out of their sleep because the kitchen was not cleaned. There's some argument naturally on the part of the children to which Clinton says, "I'd rather have a father than a mother any day".
The next day, the neighborhood junkies are introduced: Snuffy (Spike Lee) and Right Hand Man (N. Jeremi Duru), who are glue sniffers. Tommy La La (Jose Zuniga), Clinton, Nate and a couple of their neighborhood friends are sitting on the Carmichael stoop while listening to the radio and playing a baseball board game. Tommy La La takes a bottle and throws it at the door of Tony Eyes while yelling homophobic slurs. This starts an argument because Clinton says the Carmichael children always get blamed for the mess on his property. The argument ends as Vic Powell (Isaiah Washington), a war vet, comes home and greets everyone. Vic is renting the upstairs apartment from the Carmichaels. Carolyn comes out to see what is wrong, and Tony Eyes tells her that Wendell and her kids are always throwing trash into his area. Carolyn responds by telling him that he and his home are nasty. The arguments continue as the neighborhood kids jump in. Tony Eyes is still yelling and arguing when Vic comes downstairs and tells him to shut up. In anger, he punches Tony in the face and goes back into the house. Troy sneaks out and goes to the corner store to get candy. While in the store, she is intrigued by a woman (RuPaul) and one of the store owners dancing erotically in the store. As Troy leaves the store to walk back home, she sees Vic getting arrested for punching Tony Eyes.
One night, Woody and Carolyn are downstairs arguing because Woody's music is not providing for the family and Carolyn, a schoolteacher is the sole provider. They are also arguing because Woody caused the family to have bounced checks. The argument escalates as Carolyn yells upstairs for the children to turn off the TV because it is a school night. She charges upstairs with Woody following and turns off the TV. A defiant Clinton argues with Carolyn and turns on the TV. Carolyn grabs him up for disobeying and disrespecting her and Woody grabs her and carries her out of the room. Everyone is in on the fight as Woody is dragging Carolyn down the stairs and Nate is jumping on Woody's back. The other children have a hold of Carolyn pulling her in the opposite direction and Carolyn hurts her ankle in the struggle. Woody yells and everyone gets quiet as he expresses his need to respect for his work in the house. Carolyn kicks him out of the house. Woody comes over the next morning and brings flowers for Troy to give to Carolyn. Troy brings the flowers to Carolyn, and soon she and Woody get back together. They all decide to go on a trip to get out of the neighborhood but as they are leaving a worker from Con Ed comes by to shut off the electricity because the bill is unpaid. The trip is postponed and because of the situation, the family has to use candles for light.
A few days later, the family leaves Brooklyn to take Nate and Troy down South to stay with relatives. Troy stays with her cousin Viola (Patriece Nelson), who was adopted by Uncle Clem (Norman Matlock) and Aunt Song (Frances Foster). Troy doesn't want to stay, but she does it to appease her mother. Troy eventually starts having fun with Viola despite a dislike of Aunt Song and her beloved dog, Queenie. On Troy's 10th birthday, she gets a letter from Carolyn (who narrates it) telling her about the happenings in the neighborhood since the weeks she's been away. After reading the letter, Troy decides she wants to go home. Meanwhile, Aunt Song has been looking for her lost dog, Queenie all day. At Troy's birthday sleep-over the small dead dog is located when she pops out having been accidentally closed into the fold-out couch which deeply upsets Aunt Song. When Troy returns to Brooklyn picked up from the airport by her Aunt Maxine (Joie Lee) and Uncle Brown (Vondie Curtis-Hall) she is eventually told her mother is in the hospital and is taken to see her. Later, Woody takes Troy home and Troy decides to clean & mop the kitchen without being told. Later that evening, Woody tells the kids that Carolyn is sicker than originally thought and must stay in the hospital for more tests. The boys cry, but Troy remains stoic.
In the next scene, Troy walks through a public park with her brothers while singing a children's gospel song she learned at her cousin's down South. One of her brothers wonders aloud if they might have to dress up for their mother's funeral revealing either Carolyn has died or is near death. The day of the funeral Troy is approached by her Aunt Maxine (played in life by Joie Lee, the author and the grown Troy) and tries to coax her into trying the new clothes she's brought. Troy lashes out angrily that her mother would never let her wear polyester. Troy announces she is not going to the funeral when Woody calls her down. Woody explains that they're all in pain but Carolyn would want them all together at church. At the house gathering after the funeral, Troy is withdrawn when Clinton (the character based on Spike Lee as a boy) approaches her and silently takes her hand to comfort her, showing a small sign of kindness. Joseph comes inside crying, saying that Snuffy and Right Hand Man are making fun of him because their mother was dead and they robbed him. Following her mother's wishes to protect her younger brother, Troy goes outside with a baseball bat and hits Snuffy in the head drawing blood. Much like her mother Troy tells him to go sniff glue on his own block. Early the next morning, Troy is restless as she dreams she's hearing her mother's voice shouting. She goes downstairs saying she doesn't like it when her parents fight, but instead sees it's her father making a racket trying to kill a rat in the kitchen. Troy not fully awake says "Mommy?" Woody tells her Mommy's gone and that its all right to cry. Troy runs to the bathroom to throw-up and Woody consoles her. Woody says that they've all been wondering when she was going to break, meaning to finally show her grief. He says that even Clinton has cried. Troy concludes that its good that her mother isn't still in a lot of pain. This scene is scored with the song "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone."
There are scenes of the neighborhood continuing to play much like the beginning of the movie. Troy is sitting in Carolyn's old barber's chair with Joseph sitting in her lap while she combs his hair the way Carolyn did. Then, Carolyn is seen sitting on the stoop narrating a letter that Troy imagines is meant for her, encouraging her from beyond on how she can't believe that she's 10 now and how she's proud of the way she's growing up. Troy is coping with her mother's absence by imagining that her mother is only away and can still write to her the way she did when Troy was down South. Her fantasy is interrupted when the neighborhood kids come to the window for Joseph. Troy tells him not to go far because dinner is almost ready. Troy surveys the neighborhood as Carolyn used to from the stoop. The end credits play over old footage of episodes of "Soul Train" with its original closing music. The score then changes to a contemporary rap song written for the film by The Crooklyn Dodgers featuring Special Ed, Buckshot and Masta Ace. The dancers of the original "Soul Train" series seem to keep time with and dance to the contemporary rap music.
- Alfre Woodard - Carolyn Carmichael
- Delroy Lindo - Woody Carmichael
- Zelda Harris - Troy Carmichael
- Carlton Williams - Clinton Carmichael
- Sharif Rashed - Wendell Carmichael
- Chris Knowings - Nate Carmichael
- Tse-Mach Washington - Joseph Carmichael
- David Patrick Kelly - Tony Eyes / Jim
- Jose Zuniga - Tommy La La
- Isaiah Washington - Vic Powell
- Spike Lee - Snuffy
- Frances Foster - Aunt Song
- Joie Susannah Lee - Aunt Maxine
- Vondie Curtis-Hall - Uncle Brown
- Manny Perez - Hector
- RuPaul - Connie the Bodega Woman
- Tiasha Reyes - Minnie
- Patrice Nelson - Viola
Box office 
The movie debuted at number three at the box office.
- lee, spike. "crooklyn". imbd. imbd.com. Retrieved 10-03-2011.
- "The Crow' Takes Off at Box Office Movies: The opening is the biggest ever for Miramax. In second place is `When a Man Loves a Woman,' with `Crooklyn' third.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-29.