Thursday, July 14, 2011

CB4 - 1993

"CB4" - 1993
Dir. by Tamra Davis - 1 hr. 29 min.

Official Trailer

Full disclosure: I love "Fear of a Black Hat."  At around the same time, another film that has almost exactly the same description was released, "CB4."  Both are low-budget mockumentary-style comedies based on Gangsta Rap, which was around it's peak in 1993.  And while I've seen "Fear" a handful of times, I'd never bothered to watch "CB4" until now.  And now that I've seen both, it's really hard to discuss one without the other (as they hit almost exactly the same points, even down to which rappers get made fun of, which means that either neither dug very hard for material or that they both were well-done).  I'll try to separate the two, though.

Chris Rock, Deezer D, and Allen Payne play middle-class suburban kids who like rap, but can't quite get their act down at open mic nights.  After getting thrown out of the club, Rock returns the next morning to apologize, and instead walks in on a Costco-sized cocaine deal, which quickly turns into a drug bust.  The club owner, Gusto (played by Charlie Murphy in his first film role), thinks that Rock is responsible, and vows revenge while being hauled off to jail.  In this moment, Rock's character has a flash of inspiration, and decides to pattern his group after Gusto, stealing both his name (Rock becomes MC Gusto) and his cell block for the group's name, CB4.  And it totally works.

But that story is sandwiched in another - there's a mockumentary story in the vein of "This Is Spinal Tap," although the timeline and structure of the movie is pretty sloppy in this regard, and it's to the detriment of the film.  There's also a storyline involving a politician (played by Phil Hartman) who tries to make some political hay off of moral outrage at such songs like "Straight Out of Locash" and "Sweat of My Balls."  Unfortunately, there's not much more to it than Hartman's comedic false rage and watching his son sing and dance to the songs - he doesn't present much of a threat at all.  At one point, Hartman's character threatens jail if CB4 plays "Sweat of My Balls" at their big show in Sacramento, which they of course play, and get hauled off to jail.  But even that's played for laughs; the other inmates want an audition with the hot rap group, and when MC Gusto is released the next day, his family members just want to know how jail was.

Again, strictly on it's own merits, "CB4" is okay.  If you liked SNL in the late 80's-early 90's, you'll appreciate seeing Chris Rock, Chris Elliott, and Phil Hartman again.  If you were raised on this type of music, you'll appreciate the digs at the C&C Music Factory and MC Hammer, although none of the humor cuts very deep.  I think that's my biggest problem, is that nothing cuts very deep at all, although I will cut some slack considering the idea of a film about rappers wasn't very commercial at all when this was released.  I can't even imagine how Chris Rock would have explained a harder hitting concept to money-men at this point, and this was also in the era of rappers getting shot and shot at, which is a whole other nightmare to deal with.

So if this is the sort of subject you have any affection for at all, you'll probably enjoy "CB4" (although Chris Rock was still very much a work in progress at this point).  And while it's both unfair and completely inescapable to compare it to "Fear of a Black Hat," I've got to say that "CB4" comes in second place in that race.

2.5 / 5 - NF Streaming

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