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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review

White Chicks (2004)
2 Stars

Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Terry Crews, Faune A. Chambers, Rochelle Aytes, Busy Philipps, Jessica Cauffiel, Jennifer Carpenter, Frankie Faison, Lochlyn Munro, Jaime King, Brittany Daniel, Maitland Ward, Anne Dudek, John Reardon, John Heard, Steven Grayhm, Drew Sidora
2004 – 100 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, language, and some drug content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 18, 2004.

Mere days after describing "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" as "a stupid comedy made smart" through its witty, enthusiastic hold on the material and sterling comic timing, along comes "White Chicks," a broad comedy that is even more stupid but not nearly as smart. Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, the film is too reminiscent of 2001's "Scary Movie 2" (Wayans' last feature) for comfort; yes, there are some big—even giant—laugh-inducing moments, but they are threaded unevenly through a series of barely cohesive set-pieces posing as a narrative. The plot and most of the characters' actions, as is, are simply incomprehensible. This is one ribald cinematic effort that could have used another extensive rewrite.

In order to prove to their boss (Frankie Faison) and coworkers that they have what it takes in the line of duty, African-American FBI agents Marcus (Marlon Wayans) and Kevin Copeland (Shawn Wayans) go undercover—with the help of a lot of latex and make-up—as white hotel heiresses and Hamptons socialites Tiffany (Anne Dudek) and Brittany Wilson (Maitland Ward). Their goal: to investigate a kidnapping plot that they suspect is about to go down. In the process, Marcus and Kevin must convince Tiffany and Brittany's friends, Karen (Busy Philipps), Tori (Jessica Cauffiel), and Lisa (Jennifer Carpenter), of their false identities, while keeping the rest of the media and high society at bay. And as Kevin (out of costume) meets and falls for news reporter Denise Porter (Rochelle Aytes) even as he deceives her, the married Marcus (as Tiffany) must fend off the relentless advances of bodybuilder Darnell (Terry Crews).

"White Chicks" takes the concept of 2002's much better "Sorority Boys"—that of men posing as women—and ups the ante by having black men playing white women. Such a premise is exciting at the onset because of its infinite comedic possibilities and, indeed, there are a handful of wild, laugh-out-loud moments. An ongoing joke concerning Vanessa Carlton's "1000 Miles" is milked for all its worth, while a hip-hop dance-off between Marcus and Kevin (as Tiffany and Brittany) and their stuck-up rivals, Heather (Jaime King) and Megan Vandergeld (Brittany Daniel), is humorously inspired. In addition, a date that Marcus is forced to go out on with Darnell is memorably outrageous, and in a good way. Otherwise, director Keenen Ivory Wayans relies heavily on the part-bizarre/part-hilarious visual of this cross-dressing pair to garner the majority of laughs. He succeeds some of the time because Marlon and Shawn Wayans (paired up again after 2000's "Scary Movie" and 2001' "Scary Movie 2") are such uninhibited performers and their transformation into white women is realistically pulled off through some amazing make-up work. The sight of them is funny in and of itself, at first, but when the novelty of that wears off there is little left to work with.

The screenplay, credited to a ridiculous six writers (including the three Wayans'), is akin to a terrible car wreck, mangled by clumsy characterizations and poor plotting. Until Marcus and Kevin go undercover as Tiffany and Brittany, the pace is stagnant and the laughs are nonexistent. The ensemble, which includes no less than sixteen major players, is overstuffed, with no one (not even Marcus and Kevin) given enough time to develop into clearly defined individuals. This glaring problem is cause for embarrassment when the tone turns serious in the third-act and wants us to actually care about these people and the fate of certain relationships. As the music score swells, orchestrated by Teddy Castellucci (2004's "50 First Dates") with such maudlin strings that the scenes unintentionally come off as dramatic parodies, the film becomes a laughing-stock for all the wrong reasons. And as for the "plot" (a term to be used lightly with this movie), anyone who can follow the whole kidnapping scenario and the motives behind it deserve awards as they leave the theater.

In terms of performance and laughs, "White Chicks" is adequate. All of the actors do what is required of them in one-dimensional roles that do them no favors in return, while there is enough to tickle the viewer's funny bone so that the experience isn't a painful one. Still, with about five different sequences hinging on fart jokes alone and no sense to be made of the plot specifics, it is safe to say the lazy writing doesn't even begin to approach what might have been with such a creative premise. Unlike the current "Dodgeball," which was ambitious enough to be a sharp satire besides a broad physical comedy, "White Chicks" has a witless one-track mind. Director Keenen Ivory Wayans and actor brothers Shawn and Marlon were so enamored with the idea behind their film that they neglected to create anything worthwhile around it.
© 2004 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman