The moment Eminem became a legitimate hip-hop force, his white-guy rapper street cred became ripe for parody. The "white guy who wants to be black" was soon spoofed in a throwaway scene in Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth, and got a movie unto itself with Malibu's Most Wanted, directed by John Whitesell, whose very name carries thematic resonance. Well, there's a reason Schumacher's scene was so short. Especially in the hands of Jamie Kennedy -- who's more often grating than inspired -- it's difficult to even watch a politician's pampered son spout Ebonics for 90 minutes, let alone root for him. We're supposed to believe he's totally earnest -- as credible as Eminem in his own way -- but the characterization is so exaggerated, it's really Vanilla Ice we're seeing. There's no way to swallow his mannerisms without feeling embarrassed for him, same as his loving but justifiably exasperated father (Ryan O'Neal). As though to suggest, perhaps correctly, how widespread the phenomenon is, the quartet of screenwriters (including Kennedy) offer up a pack of B-Rad's fellow wannabes, who also call their hometown "The 'Bu" with a straight face, and who don't make matters any better. The film does have something to say about judging books by their covers, offering a second variation on stereotypical norms in the form of two black actors (Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson) hired to play street thugs, who are actually wimpy thespians from the Valley. But like the rest of the action, their plots don't take shape into more than a bunch of irritating set pieces. "Don't be hatin'" is B-Rad's constant plea. Sorry, Kennedy, but you've given us no choice.
by Derek Armstrong review