Friday, April 7, 2023

Flashback Friday: "Malibu's Most Wanted," Turns 20

On April 18th of 2003 a very strange and--in my opinion pretty funny--movie came out. It was titled, "Malibu's Most Wanted," and it turns 20 in less than a month. The film follows Brad Gluckman, the adult son (who acts pretty infantile) of a politician who despite being a white man in the top 1% is obsessed with the media's portrayal of the gangster lifestyle. His father's campaign manager (Blair Underwood) suggests hiring some actors to pretend and abduct Kennedy's character so as to, "Scare the Black out of him," which Underwood gets away with saying as he is Black but even he gets called out for such a loaded statement. This results in Anthony Anderson and Taye Diggs, "Kidnapping," Kennedy and attempting to show him the, "Hood life," isn't all it's cracked up to be while they are actually trained actors who know as much about being gangsters as Kennedy. Then it all goes sideways when Kenndey gets abducted by real gangbangers and is mistaken on the news for a gang leader known as, "White Kong." It gets pretty weird.

If this sounds like a strange mix of dumb jokes and at times surprisingly insightful humor you're on the right track. There are some shockingly insightful observations about appropriation and the thin line between what is a stereotype and what is a cultural custom. There are jokes that fall flat too, but with a surprisingly stacked cast (besides who I already mentioned this film also has Regina Hall, Kal Penn, Bo Derek, and Ryan O'Neil plays Kennedy's Dad to name some talent) more of the movie works than doesn't. Have a number of jokes not aged well? For sure, this is a 20-year-old movie we're talking about. That doesn't change how there is some quite clever commentary on race, culture, and how America is extremely messed-up in regards to how it handles the ways we as humans are different and alike.
When I realized it was the 20th anniversary I thought there would be a bunch of articles about the flick as it had a clever conceit and managed to be pretty funny along with thoughtful. Instead, I found a single article on a website that mainly does articles about food. It uses the metaphor of black culture as something everyone feasts on and takes from, e.g. appropriates. Don't get me wrong, it is a good article, I just expected that on the 20-year anniversary of, "Malibu's Most Wanted," there would be more than a handful of people who want to talk about it. I feel a bit like how it was when I and maybe two other people on the whole internet talked about that, "Secret Girlfriend," show on Comedy Central some years after its release, or when I and a handful of other individuals remembered Mr. Green soda.

Sometimes a product comes out, makes a splash, but then ends up seemingly forgotten by society at large. It's a shame because, "Malibu's Most Wanted," is smarter than it has any right to be, and is generally pretty funny too. That said, it is depressing to think we as a society have not advanced much at all regarding the discussion of race, culture, and so forth. If anything, we've gone backward with parents protesting, "Critical Race Theory," in schools to give one discouraging example. Perhaps there was some wisdom in the words of Kennedy's Gluckman with his oft-repeated phrase, "Don't be hatin'." Maybe if we all quit hatin' and start talking that will accomplish something, anything. Perhaps within another 20 years.

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