Marci XReviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 01/14/07 23:27:34
'Marci X' is the kind of terrible movie I'm almost glad I've seen, because this decade probably won't bring a worse movie than this.Lisa Kudrow must also be glad that it's finally come out (after something like two years on the shelf), so that she can deal with it and move on with her life; she may have been dreading the film's inevitable release the way a failing student dreads a report card. Marci X ties with Almost Heroes as the worst movie featuring a Friends cast member, and the saddest part is that Kudrow is the best actor on the show (rent The Opposite of Sex if you don't believe me). This is an entirely laughless comedy written by, of all people, Paul Rudnick (In & Out, the Addams Family movies), who usually knows what's funny; he sure as hell forgot while writing this one.
Kudrow is Marci Feld, a Jewish-American Princess whose dad (director Richard Benjamin) owns a rap label that's just put out a raunchy, "controversial" new album by the smooth gangsta rapper Dr. S (Damon Wayans). A conservative senator (Christine Baranski) condemns the album, which features such gentle ditties as "The Power in My Pants." The resultant hubbub hospitalizes Marci's father with a bad case of stress; Marci takes over and tries to convince Dr. S to apologize or at least clean up his image. Combative at first, the white Jewish darling and the black playa learn to respect each other and even fall in love.
Rudnick approaches this story as a farce ungrounded in any reality known on Earth. The narrative beats in which Marci and Dr. S warm to each other are completely fake -- ironic for a movie that keeps talking about "being real." When Dr. S forces Marci to rap in front of a hostile club audience, she stumbles at first but then improvises a hip-hop number called "The Power in My Purse," and everyone in the house goes nuts over it. I don't think so. When Cameron Diaz did this sort of thing in Charlie's Angels, giggling through her geeky white dance moves on Soul Train, we bought it because we, as well as the primarily black people in the club, got caught up in her sincere joy at being up there. No such luck with Kudrow, who looks faintly embarrassed.
The movie shows affection for pampered Jewish women -- Marci's three debutante friends (Jane Krakowski, Veanne Cox and Sherie Rene Scott) are mildly amusing, a sort of Huey, Dewey and Louie Greek chorus supporting Marci. But Rudnick doesn't have the same instinct for hip-hop culture -- he seems to base his satire on stuff he's seen on entertainment TV shows. A sequence lampooning the P. Diddy/J.Lo gunplay-in-the-club incident falls flat, and most of the black characters are cartoons seen from the outside (whereas the cartoonish Jews at least come from Rudnick's own firsthand observation, one assumes -- look at his long-running "Libby Gelman-Waxner" columns in Premiere magazine, for instance). Marci X is too airheaded to be truly racist; it's just clueless.
An interesting comedy could've been made about the unlikely parallels between the baubles of rich Jews and the bling-bling hip-hop culture, and there is a quick scene in which Marci and Dr. S rather bitchily compare furs and jewelry. That bit shows Rudnick in his element -- a generous satirist commenting on surfaces -- but the rest of the movie feels like padding; even a meant-to-be-wicked sequence recasting a boy band (here called Boys R Us) as wholesome gay boys misses the mark. (Rudnick, who's gay, must've been wanting to parody crypto-queer boy bands for ages and finally saw his chance here, but couldn't he have made it funnier?)As for Kudrow, she'll bounce back from this, if she remembers to stay away from "high-concept" comedies.
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