Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pootie Tang - 2001

"Pootie Tang" - 2001
Dir.  by Louis C.K. - 1 hr. 21 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

"Pootie Tang" is more interesting as an artifact of a particular point in time than as a film (although there are genuinely funny parts in the film).  Here's what you should know about "Pootie Tang:" Louis C.K. directed it (yes, that Louis C.K.), and this is one of the shortest feature films I've ever seen.  Also, we'll never know if it's a good film or not.

The titular character, Pootie (Lance Crouther), speaks in gibberish, doesn't ever button his shirt up, wears furs, and whips the snot out of the bad guys like Dirty Dee (Reg E. Cathey) with the belt that his father gave him.  He's also a musician and a hero to his community, which includes a message of not eating fast food or smoking cigarettes, which is a problem for Dick Lecter (Robert Vaughn), who runs LecterCorp, a conglomerate that wants you to eat fast food and smoke cigarettes.  Lecter hatches a plot to steal Pootie's identity (through assuming control of Pootie's trademarks).  Pootie Tang has to find himself, and then confront Lecter.

There are two classic comedy scenes in this film (and a third really clever one).  The first starts with Pootie going to a club, singing a duet with Missy Elliott, and then basically ignoring a club hoe who is literally pawing at him and hanging off of him in a state of ecstatic delirium.  The humor in the scene is in the execution, but the payoff delivers even on paper: when she complains through a door that Pootie's dismissal isn't right, Pootie opens the door slightly and puts a saucer of milk out for her.  And then she gets on all fours and starts lapping it up.  It's messed up and awesome all at once.  The other scene involves one of Pootie's hit songs (which is completely silent).  Again, you'd need to see it to get the most out of it, but it's fantastic down to the last gag, which is a parent busting into his kid's room and yelling at him to turn that noise down.  The clever scene(s) is a framing device: Pootie is a guest on Bob Costas' talk show, and when they go to play the clip, the clip is the entire film.  At the end of the movie, Costas pops back up and can't believe how long the clip was.

So does that make a good movie?  It's hard to say.  It's a fairly funny, silly movie.  There's a lot of funny people involved (Wanda Sykes has a couple of great bits, Jennifer Coolidge is typically awesome in her character, and one of Chris Rock's many roles in this film has him and Mario Joyner doing what could possibly be a vaudeville bit over and over again).  I'm not sure that there's enough material in general to warrant this being a feature film (it came from a sketch on "The Chris Rock Show"); even with the framing device, which may or may not have been originally planned, there's close to ten minutes of credits (which features a Pootie Tang original song, then a video from the movie's soundtrack, plus some cut scenes/bloopers).

But the reason I'm not willing to say this is entirely a bad film is that it's the product of a very specific point in time.  Like "Run Ronnie Run," this is a film that had production difficulties.  Everyone loves Louis C.K. now, but ten years ago, his generation of comedians were trying to make the jump from TV shows and appearances to making films, and it would be fair to say that their brand of comedy wasn't yet palatable to a wider audience.  In this instance, Louis C.K. says that he was fired from directing the film during the editing process, but at least "Pootie Tang" made it to theatres.  So, I can't really tell you what this is.  It's a film, it's been released into the wild, but it's also not the vision of any one person.  I kind of like "Pootie Tang," it's funny (and very funny at points), but it's also kind of a missed opportunity.  Whenever you've got a bunch of legitimately funny people being funny, there's something of merit present, but the final product ends up being a little muddled here.

2 / 5 - Streaming

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