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Overall Rating

Awesome: 41.07%
Worth A Look51.79%
Just Average: 3.57%
Pretty Crappy: 1.79%
Sucks: 1.79%

7 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Dave Chappelle's Block Party
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by Peter Sobczynski

"He may be nuts, but he throws one heck of a swinging shindig."
4 stars

Even though it is a hugely entertaining film, some people may walk away from the concert documentary “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” feeling a little disappointed. For starters, it isn’t simply a big-screen version of Chappelle’s often brilliant Comedy Central TV show–there are no skits, no Rick James impressions and no plugs for Samuel Jackson Beer. Since the events it chronicles occurred long before Chappelle famously walked away from the show a couple of months after inking a $50 million deal, it obviously doesn’t go into his departure or the still-murky reasons behind it. And while the film has been directed by Michel Gondry, who blew viewers minds with “Human Nature” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” he has chosen to treat the material in a straightforward manner instead of indulging in any visual or narrative weirdness. These absences may dismay some viewers at first but the resulting film is so full of good humor, wonderful music and good cheer that it is only the surliest of curmudgeons who won’t find themselves falling under its infectious charms.

In September of 2004, Chappelle decided to use his newfound popularity to throw a giant block party in Brooklyn that would bring the neighborhood together for a day of good food and good music. And since Chappelle’s Rolodex has a few more names than that of your ordinary event planner, he managed to recruit a pretty astonishing array of talent to perform at the free show. Kanye West, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Jill Scott, Common, Dead Prez and Mos Def are among those who perform in various combinations and the finale features nothing less than the reunion of The Fugees, the first time that Lauryn Hill, Pras and Wyclef Jean performed together since 1997. In between the music acts are brief stand-up bits from Chappelle, including one in which he observes that every comedian wants to be a musician, every musician wants to be a comedians and that he personally is “mediocre at both but have talked my way into a fortune.” (There is a little truth to what he says–Mos Def, also seen this week in “16 Blocks,” joins Chappelle for some “jazz comedy” and demonstrate some very nice comic timing.)

This sounds like enough for one film but the concert material only makes up about half the film with the rest given over to exploring the neighborhood and the machinations that went into putting on the show. Chappelle gives us a tour of the area and shares such sights as a run-down, though still glorious, old building being restored by a couple of aging and unreconstructed hippies (who offer his a place to “rest your loins” during the show) and the day care center that once counted Biggie Smalls among its members. (Later on, we hear an extensive list of popular entertainers who emerged from the area to achieve stardom.) Just before the show, Chappelle heads back to Dayton, Ohio, where he currently resides, to pass out “golden tickets” to the show to a wide array of people, including a local college marching band.

Once the music kicks in, there are a number of genuine highlights. Erykah Badu appears on stage wearing an enormous Afro wig and deals with it in a charming manner when a high wind begins to dislodge it during her set. The marching band, every member simply bursting with pride, take to the streets with a triumphant rendition of “Jesus Walks” for an audience that includes, among others, an astonished Kanye West himself. Best of all is the Fugees reunion, one of the few times when a much-hyped reunion actually lived up to the memories of the group at its best. At first a bit hesitant–not surprising considering how long it had been since they last performed together–they gradually grow more and more confident as they go on and by the time they finish, it is probably a good thing that the film comes to an end at that point because there is nowhere else that it could possibly go from there.

And while the film is filled with music and laughs, there is also a subtle-but-strong message calling for black pride and self-respect in regards to entertainment that runs throughout the proceedings. Without making a big show of it, Chappelle and his guests stand as an illustration of how black popular culture does not depend solely on witless gangsta rap and dumb Wayans Brothers films–it can actually be intelligent and thought-provoking and no one will complain. At times, the film reminded me a bit of the classic early-1970's film “Wattstax,” which chronicled a concert that offered a similar mixture of music, humor and thought, a comparison that becomes even more obvious when Fred Hampton Jr. appears to serve as a real-life link between the struggles of the past and the struggles of the future

As I write these words, I have just learned that the morally, intellectually and artistically bankrupt “Madea’s Family Reunion,” about as bad of a movie as you can possibly imagine, opened to a semi-staggering $30 million-plus opening–a fact that says less about the quality of the film (which is abysmal) and more about the fact that it is serving an audience that has been so thoroughly ignored in the last few years that they will flock to something as shabby as Tyler Perry’s modern-day minstrel nonsense because it conveys a positive message amidst the crass slapstick and awkwardly melodrama. I can only hope that everyone who contributed to that $30 million take will show up in force to see “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” this weekend so that they can experience a movie with good humor, good music and a positive message that isn’t a complete embarrassment to watch.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12885&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/03/06 00:00:02
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/30/10 Shay It isn't so much about the music but if you can't listen to hip-hop don't watch it. 5 stars
10/12/07 yuko i wish if i could have been there 4 stars
4/17/07 David Pollastrini NEVER THOUGHT MUCH OF HIM 2 stars
8/13/06 George I smell reefer 4 stars
8/05/06 MikeT THIS MOVIE IS MISLEADING! 10mins of Chapelle & the rest is a rap concert. 1 stars
7/25/06 Indrid Cold If you don't like the music, there's not much that's worth seeing. 3 stars
6/23/06 Jan Willis Enjoyed Dave but not the music 4 stars
4/16/06 millersxing A showcase for these awesome performers, Dave is the _truth_. 5 stars
3/30/06 Soha Molina ok 3 stars
3/25/06 PABLO RAMIREZ this film is too sick 5 stars
3/24/06 Ole Man Bourbon Mostly musical performances, overall it's decent but not much funny stuff. 4 stars
3/10/06 Tanya it was wonderful, I saw it the first day it came out 5 stars
3/06/06 ajay the music's not my thing, but I enjoyed this movie. 4 stars
10/05/05 kre Not only is it hilarious, but it is truly soulful and funk-tacular. 5 stars
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  03-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 13-Jun-2006



Directed by
  Michel Gondry

Written by
  Dave Chappelle

  Dave Chappelle
  Erykah Badu
  Mos Def
  Lauryn Hill
  Wyclef Jean
  Kanye West

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