A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Malibu's Most Wanted is the story of a wealthy white gubernatorial candidate's son who believes he's a rapper "from the streets" ... of Malibu. Much of the humor is derived from satirizing class and cultural differences between relatively privileged white people and African Americans from poorer neighborhoods, and how the two perceive each other. The "N" word is used several times, as is other profanity. There's gunplay -- with fake guns at first, but inevitably culminating in a drive-by that turns into a machine-gun battle between rival gangs. There's a fantasy sequence in which a young woman takes off her top, and in one scene a character mistakenly believes he sees oral sex being performed.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Jamie Kennedy plays Brad Gluckman, son of a wealthy man (Ryan O'Neal) who is running for governor. Brad and his friends are posers (sometimes known as wiggers) who adopt the clothing, slang, and outlook of black rappers from the poorest and most violent communities. He insists on being called B-Rad, and has made a demo album called "Mali-booty." This is an embarrassment to the campaign, so the candidate's political advisor (Blair Underwood) hires two classically trained actors to pretend to be real gangstas and "scare the black out of" Brad and turn him back into acting like Richie Cunningham (from television's Happy Days). The actors (Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson) act as gangsta as they can, despite the fact that rap style is even more foreign to them than it is to residents of Malibu.
Is it any good?
Yes, MALIBU'S MOST WANTED is dumb, and yes, it's a 15-minute skit stretched out to 80 minutes, but it's very funny. Subtle and sophisticated are not terms that belong anywhere near this movie, butcompared to the numbingly formulaic "black people teach white people about how much more there is to life" themes of films like Bringing Down the House and Head of State, this movie is more even-handed and generous-hearted. And unlike those other movies, it has enough confidence and respect for the audience to put some of its best jokes in throwaway lines instead of spotlighting them with everything but a drum roll.
The relationship between Diggs and Anderson's characters is deliciously loopy as they evaluate each others' performances in the midst of complete catastrophe. Snoop Dog makes a surprise appearance that only those who can recognize his voice will catch. And if the movie's final message is, "Be yourself, even if that self is a talentless poser whose appreciation of another culture is all-encompassing," at least that message is kind of sweet.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people are drawn to other cultures and when it's possible to be yourself by immersion in a culture that's not your own.
There's a long tradition of white performers co-opting the music and humor of ethnic performers. Why do you think that is?
What other comedies have you seen that deal with black-white culture clash?
- In theaters: April 18, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: September 9, 2003
- Cast: Blair Underwood, Jamie Kennedy, Ryan O'Neal
- Director: John Whitesell
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual humor, language and violence.
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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