by David Cornelius
“King’s Ransom” is a comedy that wants to be crude, dark, offensive, vulgar, and hilarious in its mean-spiritedness. Yet it also wants to be PG-13. You can already see why it fails.The film, which tries to rip-off the gloriously mischievous “Ruthless People” while adding its own flavor of oversold farce, stars Anthony Anderson as Malcolm King, a generic billionaire type, hated by many for his also being a generic jackass. Malcolm plots his own kidnapping as a means of avoiding a nasty divorce, or something; problem is, several other characters are also planning to kidnap him, too, and before you can say “wackiness ensues,” the various kidnap plots are getting criss-crossed in ways that I will assume were meant to be funny.
"What? Anthony Anderson in a terrible movie? Color me surprised."
The main problem is that the screenplay, from Wayne Conley (whose TV roots mean we get plenty of bland sitcom situations here), makes all of the characters unlikable, but in an effort to keep things mild, it holds back, refusing to make them so unlikable that they become funny. What a movie likes this needs is grand caricature, bold outrageousness that makes our eyes go wide with “did he just say that?!” response. What we get is eye-rolling “oh, he just said that” yawns. We hate everything Malcolm says and does, but we’re never taken to the point that we laugh at it.
The screenplay is where the movie fails the most. This is a horribly written number, with Conley knowing what he wants to do with a punchline but not having the flair for getting us there. In one scene, Malcolm’s ex announces: “Just like sex with you after two minutes, this conversation is over!” Ha. Sure, we all get the joke, but why is it not funny? Just look at the sentence. It’s too bulky, too rambling, too awkwardly worded. Conley’s script is like this throughout, featuring gags, both verbal and non, that stumble over themselves in the set-up, leaving the punchline to land with nothing but a dull thud.
Oh, and when all else fails, the movie tosses us some fart jokes. And I don’t mean the granny-farting-in-her-sleep yuks (although yes, we get those, too). I mean the ones that come to us out of sheer desperation. There’s one sequence that, once the characters have run out of things to say or do, simply wraps up by having one character announce that she just farted.
Wow. If that’s not a sure sign of having nowhere to go, I don’t know what is. And how sad is your movie when Jay Mohr asking “who blew ass in my basement?” is your most clever line of dialogue?
The rest of the film is a collection of bad ideas and undercooked notions. Charlie Murphy (best known from “Chappelle’s Show”) plays a gay thug; at first I was grateful that they didn’t make him all lispy and flamey, but then the loathsomeness of the character seeped through anyway, and the homophobia becomes rampant soon enough. Regina Hall wastes her time playing a bubble-headed bimbo whose lone characteristic is that she is a bubble-headed bimbo; the filmmakers seem to think that merely having her be a bubble-headed bimbo is enough. (It is not.) In a subplot that has nothing to do with anything, a dopey schmuck (Donald Faison) pretends to be Malcolm and winds up having sex with the bubble-headed bimbo. And by the end, we’re suddenly asked to like all of these people.To say that “King’s Ransom” is a mess is to say that the Great Pyramids are a little old. There is not one usable laugh to be found here, not one enjoyable moment. This is sloppy, boring, unwatchable comedy. Director Jeff Byrd mistakes loud for hilarious, mean for darkly comic. This film is a collection is missteps and embarrassments, strung together by limp fart jokes. It is, quite plainly, like watching a movie that’s trying to go out of its way to be horrible.
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originally posted: 07/23/05 20:20:56