If you’ve ever asked yourself why the first film from The Purge series didn’t feature more racial stereotypes and stoner comedy, you finally have your answer. If you’ve never considered such a possibility and can’t imagine why anyone would, then you’ve put more thought into the matter than the creative team behind Meet the Blacks. Without a doubt one of the most bizarre films I’ve come across in recent memory, Meet the Blacks doesn’t quite reach so-bad-it’s-good territory — but not for lack of trying. The inexplicability of the decisions made by all parties involved in this production at least provides enough of an existential quandary to leave the audience with a profound sense of bemusement, if never achieving the outright amusement the film seems to be striving for.
It would be far too charitable to describe Meet the Blacks (perhaps more accurately described by its alternate title, The Black Purge) as a parody of the films from which it borrows its fundamental premise; rather, that premise is utilized as a skeletal structure for the most rudimentary form of a story that could possibly be designated as such. Meet the Blacks doesn’t spend much time on narrative or character development, as it’s far more interested in providing Mike Epps with an imprudent indulgence in improvisation and plenty of scenery to chew. I’ve never had a particular problem with Mr. Epps or his dubious oeuvre, but I also don’t see the necessity of overtaxing a supporting player from the Friday sequels and The Hangover series with the responsibility of carrying a feature-length film.
Meet the Blacks is at its strongest (and I use that phrase extraordinarily loosely) when it focuses on its C-list cameos, which are every bit as perplexing as the rest of the film but at least provide some respite from Epps’ haggard hamming. Mike Tyson seems to be having more fun than the audience with his approximately two minutes of screen time as a disgraced former bouncy-house operator, and Charlie Murphy turns in the best performance of the film as a drug dealer (and personified inciting incident) out for vengeance after Epps’ theft of his money, weed and toilet seat. It’s worth noting that both Tyson and Murphy sport ridiculous pimp-perm wigs that could’ve been stolen from the set of Vampire in Brooklyn (or purchased by the elder Murphy from brother Eddie after that film tanked), with Tyson enjoying his tresses just a little too much. But any fun to be garnered from some of the film’s cameos is squandered by others, such as George Lopez’s completely redundant turn as “President El Bama” and Paul Mooney’s utterly baffling appearance as a black Klansman. If this were a smarter film, I might’ve suggested that Mooney’s role could be referencing Oscar Micheaux’s The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920). If it were a funnier film, I might’ve made an allusion to Blazing Saddles (1974). But this film is neither smart enough nor funny enough to draw such associations.
As it stands, this movie is entirely too lazy to play off its most promising potentialities, and my biggest gripe with Meet The Blacks is this very propensity to miss opportunities. What could have been a film with an implicit capacity for self-aware satire on race relations instead devolves into nothing more than tepid farce, undermining any purpose this story could have served. When executive producer Snoop Dogg shows up in whiteface ahead of the opening credits to explain that the oft-referenced “purge” entails a night of consequence-free crime, and couches this conceit in an explicitly racial context, all pretense of subtlety or social commentary has clearly been eschewed in favor of shock value. However, Meet the Blacks was clearly never intended to address societal ills or even to make much of a point at all. Just as viewers must be issued appropriate eyewear in order to enjoy 3D films, audiences for Meet the Blacks should probably be supplied with a healthy dose of both cannabis and lowered expectations before entering the theater. Hopefully, I’ve supplied the latter. Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual material, violence and drug use.