Also known as: Robin Harris’ Bébé’s Kids (video title) Release Date: July 31st, 1992 Directed by: Bruce W. Smith Written by: Reginald Hudlin Based on: characters by Robin Harris Music by: John Barnes Cast: Robin Harris (archive footage), Faizon Love, Nell Carter, Myra J., Vanessa Bell Calloway, Tone Lōc, Wayne Collins, Jonell Green, Marques Houston, John Witherspoon, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams, Louie Anderson
Hyperion Studio, Paramount Pictures, 72 Minutes
“I am pissed off to the highest level of pissivity.” – Robin Harris
I saw Bébé’s Kids in the theater when I was thirteen. I watched it again a few years later but I haven’t seen it since the ’90s. But being that I always loved Robin Harris’ comedy act and having rewatched the first House Party recently, I wanted to also go back and revisit this, which took Harris’ most famous reoccurring comedy bit and turned it into an animated film. It was also written by Reginald Hudlin, the writer and director of the first House Party, a film where he worked with Harris.
While this isn’t a classic and it doesn’t boast animation worth praising, it still works for me. I thought the bits were still funny and even though Robin Harris died before this was made, I thought Faizon Love did a stupendous job of providing the animated Robin with a voice that encapsulated his unique spirit and energy. This was also the first credit to Love’s name and for him to be able to do this so well, is pretty impressive.
A funny thing that caught me off guard is that I forgot that Tone Lōc did the voice of the baby, Peewee. Lōc really steals the show in every scene that he’s in. You also get some voice work by Nell Carter and John Witherspoon.
This is a fun, silly movie but it has a good heart. It’s message and it’s purpose are noble and it actually hits you in the feels, which you just don’t expect when spending the majority of this film watching these jerk kids destroy a theme park while making everyone’s life hell.
Bébé’s Kids probably won’t resonate with most people in 2018 but I still enjoyed the hell out of it. Maybe some of that is nostalgia or my love of Robin Harris but it still hits the right notes for me.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: Reginald Hudlin’s House Party movies.
Release Date: October 23rd, 1991 Directed by: Doug McHenry, George Jackson Written by: Daryl G. Nickens, Rusty Cundieff Based on: characters by Reginald Hudlin Music by: Vassal Benford Cast: Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin), Full Force (“Paul Anthony” George, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George Jr., Brian “B-Fine” George), Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Kamron, Iman, Louie Louie, Queen Latifah, George Stanford Brown, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Ralph Tresvant, Tony Burton, Helen Martin, Whoopi Goldberg (cameo), Groove B. Chill (Gene “Groove” Allen, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell) (cameo), Robin Harris (archive footage)
New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes
“Man, that Kid would forget his dick if it wasn’t screwed on tight.” – Play
House Party was a favorite film of mine when I was around middle school age. At the time, I though this film, the first sequel, was also really damn good and in some regards, I liked it better than the first movie even though I consider the first one to be a better film.
This chapter in the film series takes Kid ‘n Play and pushes them into new territory. This is still a coming of age story but now we see Kid go to college and Play have to adapt to things changing around him. Ultimately, this is about growing up and learning to take on adult responsibilities.
Full Force is also back to be the great thorn in the sides of Kid ‘n Play that they were in the first movie. Luckily, they don’t try to burn everyone alive in this film. That was a little dark and bizarre in the first movie.
We also see Tisha Campbell and Martin Lawrence return and this is before they would both go on to star on the sitcom Martin, not too long after this. Robin Harris unfortunately passed away between films and he only appears in this through archive footage from the first movie. Still, it is nice seeing him in it and knowing that his spirit is still a strong presence in Kid’s life.
The film’s new setting adds in some new characters. There is Jamal, played by Kamron from the rap group Young Black Teenagers (they were all white kids, actually), as well as Zora, who was played by Queen Latifah, just as she was breaking out into becoming a big star. Iman and Louie Louie appear as the villains of the story. We also get Tony Burton (of Rocky fame), as a mentor character to kid. Whoopi Goldberg has a cameo too.
The story sees Kid get screwed over by Play and one of his schemes. He loses his college money and the film leads to Kid ‘n Play throwing a big pajama party at the college in order to raise money for Kid’s tuition. It’s not the best plot but this is a college comedy from the early ’90s and you have to suspend disbelief. The film is still funny, effective and ultimately, carries a good message and does so with heart.
Besides, the film is full of rappers and new jack swing artists of the time. Music is a driving force within the picture and it really captures the magic of the time.
House Party 2 isn’t House Party 1 but it brings us back to these characters that we fell in love with and is still amusing, lighthearted and pretty satisfying.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with:House Party 1 and 3, as well as the other Kid ‘n Play film Class Act.
Release Date: March 9th, 1990 Directed by: Reginald Hudlin Written by: Reginald Hudlin Music by: Lenny White, Marcus Miller Cast: Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin), Full Force (“Paul Anthony” George, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George Jr., Brian “B-Fine” George), Robin Harris, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, A.J. Johnson, Groove B. Chill (Gene “Groove” Allen, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell), Kelly Jo Minter, John Witherspoon, Clifton Powell, George Clinton, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams
New Line Cinema, 100 Minutes
“I don’t know why they named that boy that African name. Knowing he from Cleveland!” – Pop
I loved this film the moment I saw it for the first time when it debuted on premium cable, a year after it hit theaters. I had already been a Kid ‘n Play fan at that point but this immortalized them as cool, as far as I was concerned at twelve years-old.
House Party benefits from having an all-star cast before these actors were really all-star players.
Robin Harris is probably the biggest name and he was well-known for his stand-up comedy but he really had some great moments in this that brought him to a higher level. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after this film came out and didn’t get to reap whatever benefits would have came from the success this film had.
House Party also features Martin Lawrence, just on the cusp of his superstardom, as well as John Witherspoon, Tisha Campbell, Clifton Powell, Kelly Jo Minter and musicians George Clinton, Full Force and Groove B. Chill.
The picture was originally intended to be a vehicle for DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Jeff Townes and Will Smith) but Kid ‘n Play got the project. This could have been due to Smith’s big sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air creating a conflict.
With high school teen sex comedies being all the rage in the 1980s, House Party follows suit but gives us a film from the African-American perspective. Ultimately, there isn’t much of a difference other than the added hip-hop flair, which by 1990 was a welcome change following a decade of high school comedies scored to new wave pop music.
The film was critically acclaimed. Roger Ebert loved the film stating, “House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.”
House Party is a great movie for its type. It gives something fresh to its genre and helped pave the way for a lot of up and coming talent. Additionally, it opened doors for black filmmakers, who would really make an impact on cinema throughout the 1990s. House Party was an African-American comedy that really went mainstream and helped in creating a shift in American entertainment, at the time.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with:House Party 2 and 3, as well as the other Kid ‘n Play film Class Act.
Release Date: May 19th, 1989 (Cannes) Directed by: Spike Lee Written by: Spike Lee Music by: Bill Lee, Public Enemy Cast: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, John Savage, Roger Guenveur Smith, Rosie Perez, Joie Lee, Steve White, Martin Lawrence, Robin Harris, Paul Benjamin, Frankie Faison, Samuel L. Jackson, Steve Park, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Turturro, Miguel Sandoval
40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Universal Pictures, 120 Minutes
In the summer of 1989 I was in Brooklyn visiting family for a few weeks. Being a big film buff, even at ten years-old, I had already seen every big summer movie that year. My cousin was driving us around and he asked if I wanted to see a movie. I did. He asked what I wanted to see. Thinking he would say “no”, I still replied “Do The Right Thing.” Being the cool nineteen year-old kid that he was, he smirked and said, “Well, alright.”
Leading up to my seeing Do The Right Thing in a movie theater in Brooklyn, not far from where the movie took place, I was mesmerized by the trailers and footage I saw on television. Living in Southwest Florida, I didn’t have a lot to do during summer days, except hang with friends, play video games or watch TV. I often times spent hours watching a cable channel called Movietime, which was actually E! Entertainment Television before it re-branded itself. On that channel, they always showed trailers, over and over again, and also went behind the scenes on films in development or coming out. It was a cool channel that taught a young film fan a lot about the industry and art he loved. But it is there, where I saw trailers and other footage for Do The Right Thing. Something about it just drew me in.
I always cherished the experience of seeing this film, so close to where it was made, at a time when I hadn’t quite experienced a real adult film in the theater. It was exciting but at the same time, it was a lot more than that. Do The Right Thing had a profound effect on me and how I saw other people. When I watch it now, much later in life, it is a reminder of that experience and the lessons I learned from it. It also is one of the first films that I saw to really cultivate my love for the art of motion pictures and filmmaking itself. This, alongside Cinema Paradiso, made me see movies differently.
Having just revisited Do The Right Thing for the first time in several years, it is kind of sad. Not because of the film itself but because it took away some of my optimism in regards to people. When I saw it was a kid, I truly believed that society was headed in the right direction. I thought that as time rolled on, the struggle of black people and the prejudices in America would improve. Yet, this film is almost thirty years old and its message is maybe even more relevant today than it was in 1989. Will it be even more relevant in another 30 years?
Spike Lee did a fantastic job with Do The Right Thing and it is, still to this day, my favorite Lee film (Malcolm X is a very close second). Maybe it is due to the experience it gave me when I should have been too young to have to see the world for what it is. But out of all his films, this one has the strongest message not just for African-Americans but for all Americans. And again, it is still a message that needs to be heard today.
The cinematography is stellar. The film really captures the people, the scenery and Brooklyn life in that era. The technique of using first-person perspective, which gets more prevalent as the film progresses and racial tensions increase, is masterfully shot and presented. The breaking of the fourth wall, as characters’ inner monologues come to life, directed at the audience, is effective in understanding their deepest inner prejudices and in helping escalate the tension from a narrative standpoint.
The use of Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” throughout the film is perfect and really gives an anthem to the attitudes of many of the characters. It represents, what this film, at its core, is all about. The character of Radio Raheem was the perfect vessel within the film to deliver the song to the masses, as he walked up and down the street, all day, blasting the song from his radio. He wasn’t just a vessel for the message though, he was also a symbol, a physical embodiment of it. Bill Nunn did a fine job as Raheem and made him into an iconic figure for many.
There are several really standout performances in the film. I think a lot of props need to go to Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin’ Out. Most people know Esposito as the villainous Gus from Breaking Bad. It was his role in this film, that put him on the map for me. Then years later, when I did see him on Breaking Bad, playing one of the greatest villains in television history, I was ecstatic because this was a guy who I had followed since seeing him on the big screen as a ten year-old in a Brooklyn movie theater. I’ve always thought Esposito was an underutilized actor but those who regularly work with him know his talent. In Do The Right Thing, Esposito is so committed to the role that he really stands out above everyone else. And we’re talking about a movie that has Samuel Jackson, Rosie Perez, John Turturro, Robin Harris, Frankie Faison, Ossie Davis, Danny Aiello, Martin Lawrence, Frank Vincent and so many other faces that own the screen when they are on it.
Roger Guenveur Smith’s performance as Smiley is also superb. You couldn’t not feel for the guy and when he lost his shit, you were right there with him. It’s also heartbreaking to see how others in the film treat him, even his friends, due to his handicap. Smith has played a lot of great characters over the years but Smiley is the one I most fondly remember.
There are few films that illustrate a sense of human brotherhood as much as Do The Right Thing. While it shows cultural clashes and tensions boiling over into violence, it also provides hope and displays a lot of wisdom. Most of the characters try to maintain order but the few who keep pushing each other bring the whole neighborhood to its breaking point. And then the cops show up to screw it up even more.
Do The Right Thing isn’t just a great film, it is an important film, maybe even more so today than in 1989.