By Kam Williams
Flik Royale (Jules Brown) is 13 by the time his mother’s (De’Adre Aziza) finally ready to introduce him to his grandfather (Clarke Peters). Trouble is the bourgie mamma’s boy was brought up in suburban Atlanta where he’s been raised vegetarian and been attending private school.
So, when his single-mom decides the two should get acquainted over the summer, it means the boy will have to live in the projects in Red Hook, an area of New York City teeming with dangers and temptations he hasn’t been exposed to before. Still, she figures he’ll be okay, since her dad, Enoch (Clarke Peters), happens to be the pastor of the Lil’ Peace of Heaven Baptist Church.
Flik grudgingly agrees to stay with the Bible-thumping bishop, and their strained relationship supplies the raison d’etre of Red Hook Summer. Directed by Spike Lee, the movie might superficially resemble some of his classic films like Do the Right Thing and She’s Gotta Have It, being a character-driven drama set in a sweltering Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, that’s where any similarities start and end. This is a movie that might earn high marks were it the work of a first time director. However, coming from a two-time Oscar-nominee (for 4 Little Girls and Do the Right Thing), it can only be described as a bitter disappointment.
The primary problem is that the acting is mediocre. Secondly, the screen is littered with the sort of buffoonish stereotypes Spike has been criticizing Tyler Perry for, one-dimensional caricatures running the gamut from ghetto gangstas to church ladies. Third, the film fails to generate any palpable tension.
The director makes a cameo appearance as pizza deliveryman Mookie, reprising the role he played as the protagonist of Do the Right Thing. Sadly, that distraction merely serves as a sad reminder of how much Spike’s skills have eroded since his glory days.
Picture a two-hour episode of Amos ‘n’ Andy on crack. Holy mackerel, Sapphire!
Fair (1 star)
Running time: 120 minutes
Distributor: Variance Films