Movie: Baadasssss!

Our Rating: 3.50

In dramatizing the most significant episode in his father's filmmaking career, Mario Van Peebles turns in a historical account that's frenetic, self-important, overacted and stuffed with unnecessary directorial flourishes – in other words, a perfect match for its subject matter. The 1971 revenge drama Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song was hardly subtle, and that's what enabled it to jump-start the black cinema revolution (and maybe, as this movie asserts, independent film in general). Watching Van Peebles portray papa Melvin's struggle to bring filmdom into line with his militant conscience, you can't help but be swept up in the rediscovered intoxication of it all. Though the script's stiff dialogue and narration (adapted from Melvin Van P.'s published memoir) love to remind us how momentous every plot development is, the story moves ahead on fleet feet, pausing only for some effective dramatic interplay between the Melvin character and his offspring/apprentice. (Khleo Thomas plays the young Mario.) The celebrity cameos, meanwhile, are exactly what such affairs should be: flat-out goofy. Is that really Adam West? You bet your aaasssss.


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