This modest but intensely likeable celebration of hip-hop is smartly built around the warm, relaxed accessibility of Dave Chappelle's onscreen persona. Rather than simply build to and then show the concert performances in full, it cuts back and forth between Chappelle's preparations, backstage patter, and comic stream-of-conscious camera monologues. Some of the most amusing sequences take place in Ohio when Dave hands out tickets and interacts with local shopkeepers and pre-concert footage in which Chappelle acts is a go-between as both enthused fan and celebrity. Director Michel Gondry seemingly shares a whimsical propensity with Chappelle, but, besides the balloon letters springing onscreen during the opening credits sequence, his visual eccentricities are discarded for a straightforward cinéma vérité approach. The shooting of many of the musical performances feels like an afterthought and they aren't always shown in full, but highlights include a diva face-off between Jill Scott and Erykah Badu over the vocal hook in the Roots' "You Got Me," Dead Prez storming the stage to "Turn off the Radio" and "Hip Hop," and Kanye West's marching band-led entrance to "Jesus Walks." The only disappointment is the Fugees' slightly flat reunion, an anticlimax to a film that captures the sunny spontaneity (despite the rain) of a block party at its life-affirming best.
by Michael Buening review