I went through nearly my entire list of victims … er, friends … in an attempt to find anyone who would slog through Malibu’s Most Wanted with me before finding a sufficiently sympathetic (or masochistic) soul. I am only surprised that he’s still speaking to me. After all, one person who accompanied me to 8 Mile moved to California soon after — without even saying goodbye.
Actually, Malibu isn’t the most painful cinematic experience of my life — or even of 2003 — though it may be the most bizarrely wrongheaded. I know I’m sometimes out of step with current trends in comedy — Jackass: The Movie was not made for me — I have to say that not only is Jamie Kennedy not especially funny, but he’s just too damned old to be slightly believable as Brad, the wayward, wannabe rapper son of gubernatorial candidate Bill Gluckman (Ryan O’Neal). The image of a 32-year-old festooned with bling-blings, talking like Eminem on a bad day and hanging out in the mall with his “peeps” isn’t so much funny as it is strange (and even slightly disconcerting). The idea works all right in passing (like Steve Martin in Bringing Down the House, where it was a plot contrivance), yet here it merely looks like a case of trying to milk laughs out of arrested development. That’s too bad, too, because there’s sharp satire here in the basic concept of overprivileged, poser white kids pretending to be bad asses from some romanticized notion of the ‘hood.
Actually, in the world of Malibu’s Most Wanted, virtually everyone is a poser. Brad (or B-rad) Gluckman poses as a gangsta, even though his personal experience of the ‘hood doesn’t extend beyond Malibu and Beverly Hills. Bill Gluckman poses as a loving father — something he doesn’t evidence at all until the last reel. Even the film’s real gangsta, Ted (Damien Wayans), is finally just a big baby terrified of what’s going to happen when his “mama” gets home to find her house incinerated by a rocket launcher (don’t ask). Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson as Sean and P.J. (later known as Bloodbath and Tree) are the reverse of B-rad as a pair of slightly pretentious, gay, out-of-work actors (and the film’s most successfully developed characters) hired to play gangstas to scare the rap out of him. Unlike most of characters in the movie, these two are actually pretty funny and almost make Malibu worth watching.
The big problem here is that while the idea of everyone as a poser is sound material for satire, the film’s entire committee of writers didn’t have a clue what to do with it. For that matter, there’s much to be said for the basic concept of rap as a medium commanding a large audience of people having no personal experience with the life being addressed in the songs (like the old Preston Sturges adage goes, “People always like what they don’t know anything about”). None of this, however, is what Malibu finally explores. The ideas just lie there and die there while the films milks the same lame Jamie gags for 80-odd minutes. There are a few funny moments — mostly supplied by Diggs and Anderson — but overall, Malibu is a movie with a lot of wasted potential.