Bamboozled Screen 15 articles

Bamboozled

2000

Bamboozled Poster
  • It might be argued that Mr. Lee has decided to shock Whitey one last time by rubbing his nose in the blackface obscenities of the past. The problem is that so-called crossover viewers may be hard to find for this terminally angry and turgid guilt trip.

  • Unfortunately, what purports to be a satire about bad television is bad television itself, complete with cruddy sound and image and broad, out-of-control acting. One would like to think that Lee is reflecting on his own occasional duplicity with the mass audience (his insulting use of Muzak—worse than ever here—to tell viewers how to feel, or the gross simplifications of Malcolm X). But this is basically sloppy, all-over-the-map filmmaking with few hints of self-criticism and few genuine laughs.

  • Bamboozled has the makings of incredibly potent satire, but good luck finding one in Lee's craven, shapeless blob of provocation. Running at what may be the loosest 135 minutes in cinema history, the script is rife with half-formed ideas; shot on digital video, it looks like a rehearsal of the first draft of the worst film Lee's ever made.

  • Quite the jaw-dropper, this one -- never imagined I'd see a Spike Lee movie that makes Girl 6 look like a model of narrative and thematic coherence by comparison. Imagine that The Producers had been intended not merely as a broad, deliberately tasteless comedy, but also as a sincere and angry condemnation of Nazism past and present, and you'll have a vague notion of how off-the-charts misguided the basic premise is.

  • Unfunny scarcely covers it; Lee's ideas are cherry bombs indiscriminately thrown, and the resulting mess is arduous.

  • The faux TV commercials for Da Bomb malt liquor and Timmi Hillnigger clothes would sting more if [Lee had] simply mimicked their real-life counterparts rather than just exaggerating outrageously. But there's no arguing with the extended montage of degrading snippets from movies, TV shows and cartoon images that Lee inserts near the movie's end, which stops dead whatever's left of the story. But if pictures truly speak louder than words, perhaps Lee simply should have made a documentary.

  • Goes too far in the wrong direction and not far enough where you want it to.

  • Bamboozled itself has the feel of an exorcism. Lee, whose own hands aren't completely clean (what about the booty call in He Got Game?), gets the demons out in the open. He isn't always in control, he doesn't think through the contradictions, but he reminds you that movies have power, that they matter, and for a few brilliant moments, Bamboozled matters more than any other American movie this year.

  • It's a vintage Lee production: sometimes brilliant, frequently infuriating, never dull, and so jammed with provocative ideas that you're uncertain whether to yell "Right on!" or throw your popcorn at the screen.

  • Judged on sheer voltage and ambition, Bamboozled ranks among the director's finest pictures (Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing), while its best spells evoke the pitch and panache of Ralph Ellison's landmark novel Invisible Man - a broad and bawdy call to arms. But the tale finishes up as a fascinating, unresolved tumult.

  • Lee's films are typified by their outbursts of awkward blatancy, moments when the action stops so that two or more characters can engage in on-the-nose dialogue that either explicitly analyzes a social issue or represents it (think: the Sikh character in Inside Man complaining about all the “random” searches he's been put through since 9/11). What's different about Bamboozled is that the entire film is one giant outburst of awkward blatancy, which over time makes it seem not awkward at all.

  • The exuberant performances of the show’s stars—a comedian (Tommy Davidson) and a tap dancer (Savion Glover), whom Pierre has plucked off the streets—bring out Lee’s potent theatrical paradox. The pleasure of mocking stereotypes risks perpetuating them, which is why comedy—as embodied by the old-school comedians Junebug (Paul Mooney) and Honeycutt (Thomas Jefferson Byrd)—is, in Lee’s view, a high and serious calling.

  • It would be too simple and clichéd to say that Spike Lee was on the cutting edge; by all accounts Bamboozled seems to have been shot in [digital] out of necessity. Yet rarely has Lee’s aesthetic been so accurately, spiritually wedded to his ideology—the erratic sound mix, the inconsistent lighting, the sense of multiple cameras jostling for screen supremacy all fruitfully aid this tale of woe and compromise.

  • A bold satire that doesn't pull any punches, Bamboozled is a deeply discomfiting film that's purposefully exaggerated and outlandish and yet is packed with real-world references that ground its satire—even that shootout with the white survivor is based on real events.

  • Over subsequent re-viewings, I have come to believe that Bamboozled is in fact the central work in Lee’s canon—the house on fire to which all roads lead. It features some of the rawest and most successful expressions of his enduring obsessions as a filmmaker, including: his investigations into “blackness” as an identity.

More Links