by Corey Hall
Two decades ago, Ice Cube arrived delivering a bitter pill of inner-city fury to an unsuspecting mass audience; these days he seems content shoveling pre-sweetened comfort food down the throats of a narrower crowd of devotees. There's nothing inherently wrong with giving folks what they want, but broad comedy is just like peach cobbler, far too easy to overindulge in.
Here, executive producer and guest star Cube applies the formula he honed in Friday and Barbershop, a bubbling mixture of raunchy gags and treacly homilies served piping hot. One-time novelty rapper-turned-actor Bow Wow (no need for the "Lil" anymore) stars as a nice, honest kid in an Atlanta housing project who buys a lotto ticket on a whim, only to win the mega-millions powerball jackpot.
Suddenly blessed with huge Jed Clampett screw-you money, our hero must keep his head together and keep this golden ticket from falling into the hands of the many thugs, hustlers, needy relatives, busybodies and gold diggers lined up to snatch it away.
Most are stereotypes straight out of the chitlin circuit — from Charlie Murphy's obnoxious, gossipy blabbermouth to Bow Wow's hysterical, God-fearing grandmother to Keith David's flashy, smooth-talking gangster. The ubiquitous Mike Epps makes an appearance as the equally ubiquitous stock preacher character — a must for any urban comedy — a strutting huckster with a suit and long, slicked-back hair. He's doing only a modest spin on Arsenio Hall's Coming to America pastor, but the act is far older than that. Ice Cube himself stars as the crotchety old basement recluse, a former Joe Frazier and Ken Norton sparring partner, there to provide street wisdom and the occasional emergency knockout. His old-age makeup is no more convincing than the lame attempts at drama.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.