Directed by: Louis C.K.
Starring: Lance Crouther, Wanda Sykes, Chris Rock, Robert Vaughn
Sweet Merciful King of Glory! What the hell is this witless mess? According to the press kit, it's a spin-off from a skit that was part of HBO's The Chris Rock Show, which sounds all too plausible, since this jaw-dropper of unbelievable unfunniness plays like the beached whale (even if it is only around the 80-minute mark) version of a TV skit. OK, so I knew it was going to be bad going in. I confess, in fact, that I asked nearly everyone I knew if they didn't want to go review this movie instead of me. No takers. I couldn't so much as bribe anyone into accompanying me to it. Even the prospect of witnessing the personal embarrassment of me walking up to the box office and saying, "Yes, I'm Ken Hanke from the Mountain Xpress here to review ... uh ...Pootie Tang," failed to sufficiently impress them into attending. In retrospect, I realize they were wise in their choice. (They, on the other hand, need to realize that misery loves company, I know where they live and I will have my revenge.) This is yet another in the seemingly endless parade of "comedies" that seem determined to prove that just when you think things can't get any worse, they do. I will admit there's a certain displeasing variety in the exact kind of worst on display in these films. For example, Pootie Tang is just as bad as Freddy Got Fingered, but in a wholly different way. The earlier film was stupefying in its offensive tastelessness. Pootie Tang -- its single-entendre title to one side -- is nowhere nearly as tasteless, but it's even less funny and looks like production costs ran into the tens of dollars. If anyone cares -- and judging by the tiny and grimly silent Friday night audience I endured this with, I'd guess not too many people do -- Pootie Tang (Lance Crouther, a writer for The Chris Rock Show) is a combination crime fighter ("The DaVinci of ass-kicking"), recording artist, ladies' man and children's role model. He speaks in a generally unfunny made-up language, consisting of phrases like, "I'm gonna sine your pitty on the runny kine." The plot has it that Pootie Tang's public service announcements are seriously impacting the profits of the Lecter Corporation, a huge outfit run by the evil Dick Lecter (Robert Vaughn -- yes, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. himself), whose sole mission in life is to get kids to smoke, eat unhealthy foods and guzzle malt liquor. Not surprisingly, Lecter wants to get clean-living role model Pootie out of the picture. That's about it for plot -- Lecter's efforts to pay off, take over or outright kill off our hero. All Lecter's efforts are sitcom simple, only the results are less amusing than an average episode of My Mother the Car. What little amusement there is comes from Chris Rock, who appears as both Pootie's father, Daddy Tang, and one of his sidekicks, JB, and these mostly work (to the extent they do) based on Rock's personality. Writer-director Louis C.K. (I wouldn't give my correct name either) was named on Entertainment Weekly's "It List: The 100 Most Creative People in Entertainment," which only proves that entertainment is in a bad way these days. As a writer, he appears to aspire to the level of mediocre stand-up shtick, but never makes it much beyond the realm of works for those who can be amused for hours with a piece of string. As a director, he tries to cover up his writing by tarting things up with "clever" titles (which, unfortunately, he also wrote) and a good deal of pointlessly frenetic camerawork. As is usually the case with this approach, the ultimate feeling is one of a director desperately trying to keep the viewer from realizing that there's just nothing there. The main thing I found myself wishing wasn't there was me.