Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Movie Review: Dave Chappelle's Block Party

U.S. Release Date: 3/3/06
Running Time: 1:43
Rated: R (Profanity)
Cast: Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Jill Scott, the Roots, the Fugees, Bilal

Director: Michel Gondry
Producers: Skot Bright, Doug Levine, Greg Manocherian
Screenplay: Dave Chappelle
Music: Cory Smith
Studio: Rogue Pictures Release

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With Dave Chappelle’s recent success in landing a $50 million contract, not only did his income increase, but also his incentive to make charitable contributions. On September 18, 2004, Chappelle compiled some of rap/R&B’s finest artists for a free “block party” concert to take place in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. At first glance, Chappelle’s documentary of the preparation and the execution of this event may appear to be nothing but an extended rap video; yet, at long last, it is an entertaining concoction of culture, music, and comedy.

Chappelle starts the show by offering “golden tickets” – good for admission, hotel, food, and travel expenses – to a few of his hometown (Dayton, Ohio) residents. Among this list of invitees is the entire Central State College Marching Band—who later joins Kayne West in playing his hit, “Jesus Walks.” Consequently, all of the invited combine to create an energetic assembly of fans and artists that no rainstorm could possibly quiet.

By avoiding the pratfalls of “gangsta” rap and including artists who actually have something to productive to say in terms of politics and societal issues, Chappelle creates a concert that is sure to garner a newfound respect for the genre. With headliners like Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott, the Roots, Dead Prez, and the Fugees, each viewer gets a dose of some of the best voices rap/R&B has to offer.

Sprinkled with improvised comedy and backstage footage, Dave Chappelle's Block Party is outright hilarious when it tries to be. However, as the film progresses, it gradually shifts from a comedic documentary on the mind of Dave Chappelle, to a pure unadulterated concert film. Nonetheless, laden with both jokes and song, Block Party possesses more entertainment value than your typical documentary.

Director Michel Gondry, whose last project was the quirky yet masterful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directs Block Party with unbridled confidence. His camera work, which captures the event’s down-to-earth atmosphere in every frame, is peppered with the perfect amount of passion that constantly calls attention to the bigger picture behind the surface of the event.

Ultimately, Block Party is an exposé on the human urge for the serenity of music, laughter, and togetherness. In addition, it’s an eye-opener to those not privy to rap and a joy to those familiar with the style of a comedic genius. And that, perhaps, is Block Party's biggest plus. (*** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2006