King’s Ransom

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy
Director: Jeff Byrd
Starring: Anthony Anderson, Donald Faison, Jay Mohr, Regina Hall, Loretta Devine
Rated: PG-13

I have but one piece of sage advice concerning this movie. To paraphrase a friend of mine, spurn King’s Ransom as you would spurn a rabid weasel.

This witless concoction is a shoo-in for a place on many “10 worst” lists, come the end of 2005. It’s an amazingly unfunny and mean-spirited film variant on O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief,” and one that’s made by and for people who likely never heard of “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

The sad thing is that while King’s Ransom has a good premise involving multiple kidnapping schemes, the screenplay by Wayne Conley, a former writer from TV’s Kenan & Kel, blows it at every turn. And Conley gets a strong assist from Jeff Byrd, a director associated with a few obscure movies and a raft of direct-to-video cinematography credits. The two of them take the premise and run it aground in a film built entirely on stupid stereotypes and the quaint belief that being loud is the same thing as being funny.

All of the characters are either obnoxious (to the point of vileness) or stupid (to the point of having less brains than God gave a turnip). And more often than not, they’re both.

In his first starring vehicle, Anthony Anderson plays Malcolm King, an improbable business tycoon who everyone hates. I say improbable because King is presented as a man with no business sense whatsoever. Like every other black man in the movie (with the exception of Eddie Murphy’s big brother, Charlie, as an ex-con who leches after Donald Faison), King is obsessed with only one thing: women with jiggly, generous derrieres. Indeed, he promotes the utterly air-headed Peaches (Regina Hall of the Scary Movie franchise) to a company vice-presidency based on nothing but her bottom. (We’re supposed to believe that someone with this kind of business acumen created a multimillion-dollar company?)

Not content with this nonsensical and offensive stereotyping, the film tosses in Jay Mohr as the village idiot of white trashdom, complete with a drunken, chain-smoking and (of course) flatulent granny and an adopted “gangsta” sister. The laughs just keep on coming, you see.

In all honesty, I haven’t seen a comedy this bad since National Lampoon’s Golddiggers briefly infested theaters — and that movie at least had the benefit of being unrelentingly peculiar. This film is simply bad, and it’s made much worse by the fact that everyone in it tries too hard, in a pathetic, “look how funny I am” manner.

As the small audience I watched the movie with dwindled, someone came back to me and asked, “Is this as bad as I think it is?” I told her that I suspected it was even worse — and I’ll stick to that. No matter how bad this review makes King’s Ransom sound, it’s worse.

Granted, Anthony Anderson is a pretty likable comedian who was seen to good advantage in Barbershop and had a great cameo in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. He’s also enlivened a number of pretty awful movies, from Exit Wounds to Malibu’s Most Wanted. But if this is the best that can be cooked up for him as a starring vehicle, he’s never going to make the leap to lead roles. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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