Beginning with the debut in 1990 of Keenen Ivory Wayans’ “In Living Color,” I’ve enjoyed the work of the entire Wayans family. From the even earlier “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” through 2006’s “LiTTLEMAN,” the Wayans family has made me laugh until I cry. In today’s vernacular, they’re just cray-cray (although I feel kinda stupid writing “cray-cray”). Better yet, they’re intelligent, insightful and not afraid to push any boundary – and these are the trademarks of every successful comedian. Today I’ll look at my favorite of theirs: “White Chicks.”
(2004; 109 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Kennen Ivory Wayans and starring Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans and Frankie Faison)
THESE GUYS ARE RICH WOMEN … AND FBI AGENTS
(NOTE: I updated some links and added others on July 20, 2015.)
Just say the name Wayans and I’ll laugh. Brothers Keenen Ivory, Marlon and Shawn (among their big family) are the point guys for the bring-tears-to-your-eyes comedy: they push the envelope, challenge convention and do it all by their smarts, creativity and complete lack of any fear of offending anyone.
Both the Wayans brothers and the Farrelly brothers make great films (“I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” vs. “There’s Something About Mary” or “Scary Movie” vs. “Shallow Hal” – click here for my review), but while the Wayans are a bit more prolific, but both families have a knack for comedy details and moviemaking. Brother Keenen Ivory Wayans is easily the directing equal to the Farrellys.
Of course both the Wayans and the Farrelly brothers make different style of films, but they’re both just so down-home, side-splitting funny that I’ll favorably compare them.
For years I told friends that “White Chicks” is the best movie they hadn’t seen (and they usually kept their prejudice against such slapstick and crude comedy), but it has since been replaced in that role by “Thank You for Smoking” (click here for my review) and then “Zombieland” (click here for my review).
In “White Chicks,” Marlon and Shawn play FBI agents “Marcus Copeland” and “Kevin Copeland.” They’re in their boss’ bad graces and accept a bottom-of-the-barrel assignment to get back into his favor. However, it involves picking up a couple of vapid, Paris Hilton-like heiresses at the airport.
Of course there are problems and the boys have to begin impersonating the sisters. Black men made up to look like white women? No problem here. The Wayans know their audience will go a long ways to suspend its disbelief. While the boys look like fake white women, they are fall-down funny throughout and you don’t mind the horrid disguises. The Wayans manage to pull off the whole black-white thing with verve and aplomb.
Although the plot is about the potential kidnapping of the heiresses and fraud by a supposed rich, hoity-toity father, the film is a series of great comedic scenes for Marlon and Shawn. Along with the over-the-top performance by Terry Crews as pro basketball player “Latrell Spencer,” the brothers just put it all out and pull it off. Oh, the good guys are vindicated at the end, solve the case and get back on their boss’ good side.
Shawn is the more impetuous of the duo and also in the bad graces of his wife, who suspects he’s cheating on her. Shawn has the most outrageous scene when as one of the heiresses she has dinner with Crews. He’s over-the-top (I’m already tired of the phrase, but it is so apt) sexual and the dinner dissolves into gross jokes, minor exposure below a belly button and flatulence that even makes Shawn’s dog cringe.
Marlon is the more mature (just by a few degrees) of the pair, but follows along as Shawn gets into situations. He is calm, collected and looking to find a woman of his own. This leads to his pretending to be Crews while the restaurant scene plays out and uses his house to impress a TV reporter. It’s not as funny as the restaurant, but he has to move fast with a maid and Crews’ dog.
Both Shawn and Marlon have been together (with Keenen Ivory directing) in “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” (they had bit parts as pedestrians), the “Scary Movie” franchise, “LiTTLEMAN” and here. Shawn has also been in “New Blood” while Marlon has also been in “The Heat” and Eddie Murphy’s “Norbit.” Neither has had a prolific acting career (18 credits for Shawn and 35 for Marlon), but it’s all quality work.
Although everyone is out there in “White Chicks,” there is no one more “out there” than Crews. He is blatantly sexual at all times, enjoys showing his body off (there’s a funny scene where the girls are talking about waxing while getting sun at the beach and he looms over them while oiled up and wearing only a Speedo) and manages to convince you he IS that character. Crews has also been in “Bridesmaids” and “Soul Plane,” but none of his roles equal this one.
The jokes keep coming and the boys bring some intelligence to the vapid heiresses and their friends spot the difference but go with it since the guys dressed up as girls are so much fun. The friends are Busy Phillips as “Karen,” Jessica Caulffiel as “Tori” and Jennifer Carpenter as “Lisa.” All three are interchangeable in effort but Phillips is the best of the trio. Phillips has also been in “Made of Honor” while Caulffiel was in “Legally Blonde” and its sequel and Carpenter was in “Quarantine.”
Jamie King and Brittany Daniel play the heiresses’ nemesis sisters “Helen and Megan Vandergeld.” Both are just as empty and beautiful as all the other women, but they do have a great turn in a dance contest with the boys and their friends. King has been in “Sin City” and TV’s “Hart of Dixie” while Daniel has been in “Joe Dirt” and “Broken Lizard’s” “Club Dread” (she was also in “LiTTLEMAN”).
Veteran supporting actor Frankie Faison is the boys’ longsuffering boss and he yet again does a commendable job and this time it’s keeping a straight face in front of the Wayans. Faison is smooth and commanding and has been in “Silence of the Lambs,” “Red Dragon” and “Hannibal” (all about the infamous character “Dr. Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter” made famous by Anthony Hopkins).
The individual scenes of note include the dance-off, shopping with the girls, the restaurant scene and then the climactic “White Party” at the end where everything becomes clear (“What do you mean broke? Like Martha Stewart broke or MC Hammer broke?” one girl asks her father. The sisters wail at the MC Hammer answer) and all the loose ends wind up tied.
“White Chicks” was the 41st ranked film at U.S. theaters in 2004 with $70.8 million in receipts, according to Box Office Mojo. However, it added millions more worldwide and its final total was $113 million on a $38 million budget, according to Wiki. It trailed far, far behind the stunning $441.2 million made by the No. 1 film that year: “Shrek 2” (it would take “The Dark Knight” four years later to top that number).
Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):
- Lochlyn Munro, who plays “Agent Jake Harper” (no apparent relation to the “Two and a Half Men” character), often works with the Wayans family. He was in “LiTTLEMAN” and “Scary Movie” and away from them was also in an episode of TV’s “Monk” as a mobster’s henchman.
- The airport in New York where Marlon and Shawn pick up the heiresses is actually Palm Beach International Airport in Florida.
- John Heard plays “Warren Vandergeld,” who is the bad guy. It’s too small of a role for him to get any traction, still he’s a professional, competent actor who has been in a quite a variety of projects in his prolific career (he has 165 credits) that includes the little-remembered but powerful “Betrayed” (click here for my review) and as a recurring but doomed character in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He’s mostly recognized as the father in the first two “Home Alone” films.
© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014-2015.
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