Bamboozled

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Bamboozled Movie Poster Image
Provocative Spike Lee movie for older teens.
  • R
  • 2000
  • 135 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Violence

Some gun violence, characters shot.

Sex

Sexual references and situations.

Language

Some strong language.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Malt liquor, smoking, drug references.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has strong language and violence. Characters are shot and killed. There is some social drinking, and one character abuses alcohol. There are sexual references, and the movie makes some telling points about sexist assumptions about a woman's use of sex to advance her career.

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What's the story?

In BAMBOOZLED, uptight black television network exec Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) has adjusted his ideas so severely that even he isn't sure what he thinks about the compromises he's made working in the white world. When his boss, Mr. Dunwitty (Michael Rapaport) tells him to develop a new show that will boost the station's ratings, Delacroix sets out to create a program so offensive that he will be fired. With the help of his dedicated assistant, Sloan (Jada Pinkett Smith), he creates a minstrel show performed by black people in blackface, set in a watermelon patch, with every possible stereotype from Topsy to Aunt Jemima to a native in a leopard skin loincloth. The show is a huge hit. All across America, white and black fans put on blackface and happily yell out, "I'm a nigger!" The show's stars, former street performers, are thrilled to be rich and famous, but increasingly haunted by their TV roles. Inspired to create their own TV show, a black militant group kidnaps the star of Delacroix's show, with tragic results.

Is it any good?

Spike Lee's movie is ambitious, provocative, complex, thoughtful, and just about review-proof. Anyone who doesn't like it could be accused of not getting it. Anyone who does like it could be accused of liking it for the wrong reasons and not getting it, either. This movie has some of the most striking images ever put on film. The minstrel show stars peer into mirrors to put on exaggerated red lips. A tear slips down a blackened cheek. Montages of minstrel images from old movies and racist toys and collectibles are devastating.

Lee's movie raises dozens of important questions about the roles that both blacks and whites play in perpetuating racist stereotypes. Lee suggests that the current UPN and WB sitcoms featuring black characters may be the modern-day equivalent of a minstrel show. The movie is uneven. Dialogue has never been Lee's strong point. But each scene has depth, integrity, intelligence -- and anger -- that is a welcome antidote to the usual formulaic Hollywood product. It is a profound and stimulating film that is designed to create debate and discussion, and certain to raise many different thoughts and emotions amongst viewers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about this country's history of racism and the difficulty of bridging the gulf it has created.

Movie details

For kids who love movies that make you think

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