Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/16/01
The Original Kings
2000 (2001) - Paramount
review by Dan Kelly of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
115 mins, R, widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL
dual-layered (layer switch at 35:12, in chapter 7), Amaray keep case
packaging, bonus scenes, music video for Big Tymers'
#1 Stunna, theatrical trailer,
film-themed menu screens, scene access (13 chapters), languages:
English (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
The Original Kings of Comedy,
(excessive title and all) is a mixed bag of comic treats. It was
shot live in Charlotte, NC, during a recent, mega-successful comedy
tour, featuring the performances of a number of black comics. Some
of it is so funny, that I was actually struggling to catch my
breath. On the other hand, some of it is not so funny. For example,
there are long pauses between laughs during D.L. Hughley's set.
Outside of his performance here, I normally like Hughley's act, but
it didn't work for me this go around. Steve Harvey acts as emcee for
the event, and when he's funny, he's very funny. I liked his take on
an all black Titanic cast, and
it's funny to watch him berate a few of the audience members. But
toward the end of his set, he dives into a few lengthy stories that
really make it feel like he's just filling time between numbers. I
also didn't like the occasional willingness to fall back on comic "sure
things" to go for a weak laugh or two. In the right context,
jokes about the differences between white and black people can be
very funny. And indeed, at times, it's very funny here. But
The Original Kings of Comedy
relies on it too heavily on too many occasions.
But when it's on, MAN is it on! I got a big kick out of Cedric the
Entertainer's 30 minutes on stage. His routine is a little
friendlier to the ears (for those who aren't too keen on foul-mouth
humor), and his description of an oversized, pimped-out, lunar-bound
space shuttle had me in stitches. If you want the little tikes in
the room for any of the acts, Cedric's is probably the safest bet.
For the really good stuff, though, you'll have to wait till the end.
The irrepressible Bernie Mac closes out the show with a no holds
barred routine that I'm sure is just as good on film as it was in
person. Mac's humor reminds me of the self-deprecating style of
Rodney Dangerfield and the cruel (but perceptive and hysterical)
observations of the late Robin Harris. Admittedly, it's probably
easy to get offended by Mac's brand of humor. There is, however, a
point in his act where he takes a quick moment to wink at the
audience to let them know that he's as much a part of the joke as
his targets are. His performance is a perfect end to the show.
Paramount has given us a good-looking anamorphic picture for the
film's DVD release. Presented in its original aspect ratio of
1.85:1, the picture is generally stable, but seems limited by its
source material. Its greatest asset is the solid black level and
shadow detail, that help to create a real sense of depth to the
picture. Compression artifacting is non-existent, as is edge
enhancement. The biggest distraction is a little oversaturation with
color, that tends to make some of the the blues and reds look a
little too prominent. All told, though, the picture looks pretty
spiffy. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also a nice effort that aids
in creating a sense of space. Rear channels are used almost
exclusively for audience noise (applause, laughter, hollering, etc.)
and are effective in really immersing you into the film. Dialogue
drop out is never an issue, and bass was surprisingly strong for a
film that has virtually zero added effects. My only quibble with the
audio was the change in tone during the constant cutting from the
stage to get the audience reaction. Without fail, it sounded a tad
too tinny and canned for my liking. Outside of this one complaint,
however, there isn't a whole lot to worry about.
The best of the extras is some 30 minutes of additional scenes. A
few of them feature the four comedians together, talking about their
craft. And some are definitely worth a look, including an improv
from Bernie Mac as he waits for a stagehand to replace a bum
microphone. Along with these, you also get the winning and
inspirational video #1 Stunna
by the Big Tymers. Actually... the video is as forgettable as the
song, so skip it. It just feels like an obligatory plug for the
film's soundtrack. The features are topped off with an anamorphic
trailer for the film.
The Original Kings of Comedy
is the least "Spike" of all the Spike Lee films I've seen.
That is to say, he probably had less creative input on this film
than he normally does. So all those who fear the controversy of a
Spike Lee Joint - rest easy. You're in good hands with the Kings,
and there's sure to be at least a few good laughs for fans of
stand-up comedy. If you missed them in person AND at theatres, the
DVD is your best chance to see them in action.