- Jul 8, 2001
White Chicks: Unrated and Uncut
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Film Length: 115 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio: DD 5.1
Languages: English, French (also DD 5.1)
Subtitles: English, French
Release date: October 26
:star: :star: (all star ratings out of five)
We, as an audience, are willing to accept a lot of nonsense in the name of comedy. Many films that stand out in my memory as being truly hilarious involve conceits that are dubious at best.
In recent years, movies like “Shallow Hal” and “Me, Myself and Irene” have dared us to suspend our disbelief just long enough to dissolve into peels of laughter. “White Chicks,” from the Wayans brothers (“Scary Movie”), strains credulity at a level that would make the Farrelly brothers blush.
Taking as its inspiration the questionable celebrity of millionaire heiresses like the Hilton sisters, this is a variation on the old gender switcheroo concept, which asks the eternal (and eternally stupid) question “what would man do in a woman’s body?” Act like an idiot, apparently.
Shawn and Marlon Wayans, whose brother Keenan Ivory Wayans directed, play two bumbling FBI agents forced by unlikely circumstance to disguise themselves as the Wilson sisters, two very spoiled – and very white – young women. The agents call their pals at the FBI’s makeup lab (this part is a little hazy) and have some sort of extensive non-surgical procedure to transform themselves into the two ladies.
For the remainder of the film, the two agents pass themselves off as the Wilsons. Friends of the girls, other FBI agents watching the Wilsons (there’s a ludicrous kidnapping subplot that got them involved in the first place), and the general public don’t recognize that these two men are not these two female celebrities.
For the record, they look ridiculous. To some degree, this is intentional. The physical gag is part of the (alleged) appeal. but I found it completely impossible to accept that anyone would for a moment mistake these two for females of this or any species.
Are there funny moments? I confess, I laughed occasionally. But I felt dirty afterward. A peripheral plot involves an NBA player’s infatuation with one of the “girls.” Whether he’s blind, gay or insane is left to the imagination of the viewer, but his scenes are wonderfully strange and tasteless.
Likewise, some of the scenes in which the “girls” interact with their three girlfriends are amusing, as when the fivesome goes clothes shopping. The three actresses playing friends are at least as funny as the two leads, maybe more.
There was a minor hubbub surrounding the release of this film, because the title was seen to some as racist. While that may or may not be the case – it’s really a matter of personal opinion – the film is not more or less racially insensitive than others of its kind. Most of the humor is actually about gender differences. Whether the title was intended to draw attention to the film is anybody’s guess.
I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the theatrical cut of “White Chicks,” so I can’t say definitively which scenes have been added here. From the commentary track, and from my sense of what a PG-13 rating entails, there are a few scenes that I can say with some certainty were not in the theatrical release. Most notably, at a slumber party with the girls, someone produces a, ah, adult novelty item. Hilarity ensues. Sort of.
:star: :star: :star: :star:
As television began making its transition to high definition, some guests on programs like “The Tonight Show” found out the hard way what a more detailed broadcast will reveal. Actors with inches of pancake makeup and actresses with skin problems were exposed for the frauds they are (just kidding). Similarly, “White Chicks” does not necessarily benefit from the clarity of its transfer. The actors necks, in particular are noticeably … masculine. Their ludicrous makeup looks blotchy and somewhat frightening. I’m not saying the image should’ve been softened, just pointing out an unfortunate reality. There are very few dark scenes here, so black levels are not an issue. And though the opening sequence has some unpleasant ringing and oversaturated colors, the balance of the disc is mostly unimpeachable.
:star: :star: :star:
There are few sound effects here, save for the smashing of furniture that marks the end of any idiot comedy. Dialogue is clear, and the soundtrack, which is mostly current hip hop and pop music, is at an appropriate level. The hip hop music’s bass is loud, but not at all deep. This is a characteristic of the music, not the mix.
:star: :star: :star:
Encore: On the Set Is a pretty typical, promotional making-of featurette. It’s filled with clips from the film and interviews with the cast and crew. It’s not a bad example of the species, and some of the comments about the process, particularly what the actors went through, are marginally interesting. The whole thing tries so relentlessly to sell the film, though, that it wore out its welcome pretty quickly. Such is the nature of a making-of featurette that airs on television before a film’s theatrical release.
How’d They Do That? looks at the makeup effects that are crucial to the film. The stars remark on how they could scarcely tell the difference between the women and their male, made-up counterparts. Uh, right. The requisite “I was in the makeup trailer for seven hours” stories are recounted for the thousandth time. Somehow it’s more interesting when the movie doesn’t stink.
A Wayans’ Comedy is a short doc exploring the “theory” behind the Wayans’ particular brand of comedy. I found this impossible to take seriously after witnessing many of the disasters they’ve produced, including this one.
A Commentary track featuring all three Wayans brothers involved with the film (there are others, notably Damon), is the highlight of the disc. The brothers are extraordinarily candid about the film, describing elements of the production that are typically kept private. They make frequent references to the film’s location (Vancouver, subbing for the Hamptons) and the freezing cold conditions in which all the scenes – at the beach, for example – were shot. It’s very difficult to tell which of the three is talking, but for the most part it doesn’t matter. The three are frequently more funny than the movie.
Cast and crew filmographies
Though “White Chicks” is not a good film, those who enjoy the occasional dumb comedy could do worse than this for a rental. It’s neither as offensive as its advertising would’ve liked you to believe, nor as funny. But solid comedies are so few these days that, if the need for a cheap laugh is dire, this merits some consideration.