February 16th, 2003 | Published in Uncategorized
“Scabrous” seemed to win the sweepstakes for favorite critical descriptive when Bamboozled came out in 2000. From there, consensus broke down as reviewers struggled with the sledgehammer sensibility behind the satire driving the movie. The premise involves an angry television writer who convinces his network to revive minstrelcy, complete with blackface. The screen time given to the “New Millenium Minstrel Show” with “Mantan” and “Sleep’n Eat” is every bit as awful as you’d expect.
Lee’s anger is palpable and drives some moments hard, but the scene in the movie that’s most telling isn’t during the grotesqueries of the minstrel show with its audience of blackface-wearing fans. It comes when a media relations specialist explains that the first line of defense against charges of racism and bigotry is to tell people to “lighten up, it’s just good fun” and demands to know “who gets to define what’s black?”
The movie isn’t as tight as some Lee’s done, but it’s still compelling.