| by Allan Stackhouse |
Spoofs are a funny business. When they try to hard, they turn out like Epic Movie. When they're done with restraint, they turn out like the outrageously hilarious Black Dynamite. Though the film made fun of blaxploitation films of the 1970s. While there are no silver bullets to making a successful spoof, what will help is making a film that can stand on its own with the satirical elements as just the stitching for the garment as opposed to the actual fabric. Take for example Austin Powers - it's a hilarious film whose satirical '70s elements are wound across a cohesive tale of spies and super villains. The shots are not simply showcasing spoof after spoof of this recent funny thing in the news and that horrible movie. Black Dynamite is in the vein of Austin Powers but completely takes it to that next level that most big budget comedies shoot for yet only independent films seem to get (see Sunshine Cleaning).
There are two enormously funny winks in the scene with Michael Jai White's Black Dynamite and Kym Whitley's Honeybee. Kym herself is a master of comedic acting (Friday After Next) and she is a great scene partner for Michael. A boom mic drops into the shot above Michael and it seems like it's there for too long but Michael's glance at it resets the comedic clock. The genius in that is amazing is unspeakably brilliant. Honeybee, in a stressed exclamation to Black Dynamite, places an unlit cigarette to her lips and her subsequent smokeless exhale are simply too funny. The amount of comedy in such a small scene in dialogue, props, and acting all work together to provide such a richly funny scene.
Michael's physical prowess is noteworthy as well: ceiling high kicks, amazing nunchuku skills, and punches strong enough to break through brick*. The action scene following was surprisingly well done. It was pretty inventive to have the camera focusing only on one victim on the ground with bodies flying and falling around him. Black Dynamite's appearance only when that victim tries to escape was something out of a horror movie but made to work in a comedy.
The overacting in every scene was almost too much for me to handle. When on the phone with Black Dynamite, Aunt Billy calls him to inform him of his brother's death. She then sobs for a beat and then proceeds to berate him about a promise he made to his mother. That little purposely placed bit of crying was so hysterically funny that I had to watch it a few times. Overacting is a much better route to go down instead of half-witted pretty faces. Actors who are aware and capable of making their acting sound and look forced to the point where it's composed at the same time are truly skilled.
On the technical side, the film still managed to find a few to spoof itself as well. After struggling to hang up the phone with Aunt Billy, there is an obvious jump cut with Black Dynamite in frame. Also, Black Dynamite's dark skinned brother Jimmy is portrayed in a flashback by a lighter skinned actor – not the longest bit you could grasp the humor out of but still amazingly funny. Long lines of dialogue are kept to a minimum in normal films but Black Dynamite uses these lesser-used opportunities to garner humor from something of which you'd normally get a serious explanation: “This one child, I'll never forget. Poor little bastard was still alive. His little Chinese legs were blown clean off. Still see his little shins and feet hanging from the ceiling fan across the hut. He was charred from his head down to his little Chinese knees. He tried to get up but he fell over when what was left of his right leg broke off.” That's not the entire monologue but you get the picture. Everything is over the top but still pays mind to the film and not just the jokes.
At this point I must declare myself a fan of Michael Jai White. He has consistently proven himself as an actor in more than one genre, across years of films. I suppose it's not exactly by choice but it just came about somehow, just like it did with Gerard Butler. Now, as a screenwriter and producer, I admire Michael's many talents. As a film, Black Dynamite is a gem amongst a sea of lab-made stones. I am in total admiration of its filmmakers and their ability to make such a cohesive and hilarious film.
P.S. Thanks to Mr. Ben Jones of Sekretagent Productions for the awesome recommendation.