Must You Get Medieval on Us?
Profile: Intended fish-out-of-water comedy about a black guy transported back to medieval England and the hilarity that ensues that isn't so much hilarity as a tedious excuse for a slew of black/white jokes that might have seemed funny if something called the 1980s hadn't occurred in which the same jokes were heaved forth from every standup-comedy orifice on the planet. Think A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court meets Def Comedy Jam meets Court Jester meets White Guys Buy Ice Cream Like This, But Black Guys, They Buy Ice Cream Like This.
Symptoms: This isn't a fish out of water; this is a fish on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The two parties—modern-day African-American vs. medieval Englishmen—are so far separated from each other's reality that there is little chance for the kind of misunderstanding that fuels great comedy like The Inspector Generalor Bosom Buddies. There's no misunderstanding to play off, since the medieval stooges have absolutely no idea what the black guy is saying, a bit of luck for the medieval stooges since most of what he says is of the "Whatchoo been eatin'? Spoiled nachos?" and "I be stompin' yo' ass!" variety. As if that Proustian wordplay weren't enough, then comes the part where we find out that white people can't dance, while it's all black people think about. People, is this what Nipsey Russell died for? Diagnosis: Pootie Tang, called the "Citizen Tang of skit movies" by—oh, what was that brilliant fellow's name? Oh, yes—me is out on video and DVD. Enjoy!
Prescription: Your premise is ridiculous: black guy in jeans, sneakers and a Philadelphia Eagles jersey shows up at a 14th-century English court, and no one notices? Dude, they were burning people alive back then for skipping to the well. The setting of this kind of film means everything, since it determines your humor's tension and tenor. Check out Blazing Saddles, which is funny because the social order is turned upside-down. We laugh as we root for the sheriff to get out of all the scrapes that would naturally occur if a black man were made sheriff of an Old West town. Any comedy, even an outrageous one such as Some Like It Hotor Airplane, has to be set against something plausible. Set your movie in colonial America, revolutionary France, Hillary's ascent of Everest—anywhere credible that you can then twist. As it stands, your premise is so contrived and illogical that your main character is left recycling a lot of lame jokes ostensibly making fun of whitey but that, in the end, make him look a buffoon who's only interested in quick sex and a warm place to go to the bathroom. The only surprise your movie holds is that James Watt wasn't given a screenwriting credit.
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