'90s Movie Month! "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" Review

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'90s Movie Month! "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" Review

Rating: R (violence, some drug content, strong language, and sexuality)
Length: 89 minutes
Release date: Jan. 12, 1996
Directed by:Paris Barclay
Genre: Comedy/ Crime

The late 1980s and early 1990s gave filmgoers the opportunity to get a close look at the modern ghetto, with an emphasis placed on the many issues faced by area residents. Films such as "Boyz N the Hood" and "New Jack City" were often cautionary tales, pitting the fates of hard-working residents against those members of society who want to get rich quick by taking advantage of the various vices to be found in their own neighborhoods. Amidst these unrelenting tales of woe, the Wayans brothers, Shawn and Marlon, penned a parody called "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" that aimed itself at the heart of these films. They managed to create a spoof that used all of the accepted conventions of these hood-centric films to comedic effect and still manages to delight viewers nearly twenty years after its release.

On the surface, the Wayans' film is a typical parody. It takes the basic storylines of several of the genre's best-known movies and creates a mash-up that stands as a presentation piece for a variety of sight gags and quick jokes. When you look a little deeper, however, you'll find that the movie actually manages to add to the prevailing conversations of the period concerning the problems and possible solutions presented by the very serious films that the brothers choose to spoof.

The film begins with the return of Ashtray (Shawn Wayans) to the hood in South Central to live with his father and learn those life lessons necessary for becoming a man. An ongoing joke in the movie is that it's unclear whether his father is actually older than he is. Upon his return, he meets up with his cousin Loc Dog (Marlon Wayans). Loc Dog has lived his entire life in South Central and represents the gang-banging characters commonly found in movies of the genre. The two cousins, along with their friends Preach (hilariously played by Chris Spencer) and Crazy Legs (Suli McCullough), form the core of a group determined to survive the dangers of the neighborhood without sacrificing their own personalities in the process.

From that point onward, the film takes on the task of spoofing the genre to the fullest, making fun of a variety of common tropes. The life lessons of the hood remain intact, but the usual heavy-handed approach to important life lessons by actual genre films is accompanied by some lighthearted comic relief in the form of the mailman (Keenan Ivory Wayans), who arrives on the scene after each lesson to point out its importance to everyone around. A variety of social issues are approached in a comedic manner as well. The character's love interest has a gaggle of children, each asking if Ashtray is his or her daddy. The unrelenting presence of the gangs adds a violent tension to the movie that leads to narrow escapes by the group from a serious of rapidly escalating but funny encounters with gang members. Even the heavy police presence is made fun of, with characters being stopped in the street and forced to dance by officers.

Between the various parodies of genre films, however, is the humor at which the Wayans brothers excel. Jokes are quickly tossed into the mix one after another, and most are funny enough to keep audiences laughing throughout. Shawn and Marlon Wayans manage to present a wonderful look at the hood as seen through slightly off-kilter eyes, but even though they both wrote and starred in the film, the direction of Paris Barclay can be felt throughout. He manages to keep the duo in line, keeping up a steady pace of absurdity while still retaining an understandable plot line.

The supporting cast also plays a large role in the success of the film. Veteran comedian Bernie Mac plays a cop who hates black people despite being black himself. Helen Martin from the TV show "227" is also a scene stealer as Ashtray's pot-smoking grandmother.

"Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" remains a highly entertaining film despite its age. The movie can be enjoyed as a straight spoof film, with viewers riding along as the Wayans brothers take them on a trip through the genre, or viewers can opt to watch it for the small messages hidden within. Either way, it's an enjoyable look at a bygone movie era using memorable characters who manage to remain original even in the midst of parodying their more famous genre counterparts.

Rating: 3 out of 5