A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood is a 1996 parody comedy. As the lengthy title clearly implies, the movie is a satire of the slew of "hood" movies from the '90s that tried to convey the harsh realities of the inner city for African-Americans. As such, exaggeration permeates the movie in every form, and is the source of much of the comedy. There's frequent usage of "f--k," "motherf---r," and the "N" word, as well as scenes filled with malt liquor drinking and weed smoking. The father of the lead character encourages his son to drink and drive and then talks of how much fun it is. Gun violence is shown and parodied; however, the scene in which a white sniper shoots and kills an African-American student starting his first day of college feels way too real and far less funny in light of so many mass shootings. The stock characters this movie is parodying are on full display: trigger-happy gangbangers, Korean immigrant owners of corner stores who don't trust their African-American customers, women in the neighborhood who sleep around and have several children from several different fathers, police brutality. There are exaggerated sex scenes, parodies of foreplay in which food and condiments are used for absurd effect. In another a scene, the lead character reads a bedtime story to his father (who appears to be younger than him); it's a sex story from a pornographic magazine that he reads while the teen boy masturbates under the blankets. However, the movie also uses comedy to raise questions of how African-American men and women are portrayed in movies like these, and in Hollywood overall.
What's the story?
In DON'T BE A MENACE TO SOUTH CENTRAL WHILE DRINKING YOUR JUICE IN THE HOOD, Ashtray (Shawn Wayans) has just moved into the inner city to live with his father. He starts to learn the ways of the streets from his gun-toting cousin Loc Dog (Marlon Wayans), as well as friends Preach and Crazy Legs. At a party, Tray falls hard for Dashiki, a woman with several kids from different fathers. This arouses jealousy in Toothpick, a recently paroled gang member. Things come to a head shortly after in the parking lot of a corner store when Toothpick rolls up in his convertible with his friends on the verge of killing Ashtray and Loc Dog in a drive-by that's only prevented when Loc Dog threatens to fire the nuclear warhead he keeps in the back of his truck. Ashtray soon sleeps with Dashiki, who immediately tells him she's pregnant with his child. Tensions continue to escalate between Toothpick's and Ashtray's posses, and Ashtray wants nothing more than to survive the impending shootout and take Dashiki and her children with him out of the hood.
Is it any good?
This parody has moments that are still hilarious decades after its initial release. Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood is at its best and most timeless when the humor transcends the genre of the movies it's parodying. The recurring joke of Keenen Ivory Wayans as the mailman who turns to the camera and yells "Message!" whenever a heavy-handed comment on society is shoehorned into the story; comments on the lack of positive roles for African-American actresses in Hollywood; and a group of LAPD detectives in the station gathered around an arcade game modeled after the Rodney King case are all moments of barbed humor reminiscent of the Wayans' best sketches on In Living Color. The references to the OJ Simpson case and Bernie Mac as a black police officer who hates black people have also stood the test of time.
As for the rest, some of it depends on your taste in humor, and some of it simply hasn't aged well. There's a lot of humor in sight gags and exaggeration that almost reaches the gut laughs of a parody like Airplane!. The parodies of stock characters in the "hood" movies of the '90s sometimes make it unclear what the target of the humor is supposed to be: the way these movies are written or the people themselves. In other words, while it's safe to give the Wayans the benefit of the doubt that they're obviously not making fun of welfare recipients, stronger and more thoughtful humor might have been employed instead of fridges with blocks of clearly labeled government cheese. And jokes involving snipers killing innocent people don't seem all that funny anymore in a country with so many mass shootings. References to drinking 40s and smoking blunts are also beyond played-out by this point.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about parody movies. How do parodies like Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood mine comedy out of popular movies, in terms of characters, scenes, and dialogue? How do parody movies stand out on their own?
What were the different styles of comedy used in this movie? What is the difference between parody and satire? How is exaggeration used for comedic effect?
What serious points was the movie trying to make through comedy? Why is comedy often a good way to make serious points?
- In theaters: January 12, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: November 25, 2014
- Cast: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Vivica A. Fox
- Director: Paris Barclay
- Studio: Island Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Strong language, sexuality, some drug content and violence.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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