Baby Boy is the underrated new picture by young Johnny Singleton, the director of Shaft 2K who was also the youngest fella to ever get nominated for a best director oscar. That was for Boyz N the Hood, and what makes Baby Boy interesting is that it is a companion piece to that movie, telling the story of thugs and gangstas in South Central Los Angeles. But now Singleton is older and he sees things differently. So instead of portraying these thugs as a menace to society, he portrays them as a bunch of fucking babies who need their mommies.
The main character is Jody, who is played by a model named Tyrese. He is bald and muscled, like what Singleton wishes he looked like. But he drives his girlfriend’s car or, when necessary, rides a bike. And he lives with his mom, even though he has two different babies from two different mamas.
The story is about Jody trying to grow up and move out of his mom’s house. But all he can figure out to do is steal a bunch of dresses and sell them. And then beat up some kids who steal his beer.
I don’t know much about modeling so who the fuck knows if tyrese is good at that, but I’ll tell you this. He’s real good in this role. And I like the character because he’s VERY flawed, but this tyrese is charismatic enough to make you keep rooting for him. to some extent.
There are sort of two villains in the piece. The best one is the great Ving Rhames, who steals the movie as Jody’s mom’s ex-con boyfriend. He’s a tattooed motherfucker who threatens Jody by moving in, inventing new sex moves with his mom, and walking around the house naked. He’s a thug who smokes cigars and dresses up like an old school gangster. Like he could be one of those bank robbing LA cops that worked for Death Row Records and killed those two rappers back in the ’90s. He’s a real scary character but he’s also sort of the yoda character. He has the funniest scenes in the movie and also the most powerful. In short, he is Ving Rhames.
Then there is the more one dimensional ex-boyfriend of Jody’s baby’s mama #1. He gets out of prison and wants to move in with Jody’s girl and wants Jody out of his way. He is played by the rap singer Tha Dogg, who also stars in an upcoming horror picture called Bones. Boyz N the Hood also had a rapper playing a gangsta in it, and he was the troublemaker who was a bad influence on our hero Cuba Gooding and pulled him into a world of murder and revenge. Tha Dogg isn’t as much of a threat though, he turns out to be comic relief. He just sits around on the couch in an undershirt playing video games and shit. He’s a total joke, and I think that’s Singleton’s statement about his generation. Why can’t they be less like Jody or Tha Dogg, and more like Shaft?
I think Singleton is an underrated director, but only because he is so disliked since Boyz. The other ones weren’t too hot but they had their moments. I have talked to white people who hated Boyz N the Hood because it’s so preachy and has goody two shoes Cuba Gooding in that ugly ass shirt trying to teach the boyz of south central to go to college and become businessmen. They say it’s like an after school special n the hood and that Menace II Society is the better, rawer, truer version of the “hood picture”.
And when they say that I say that’s interesting, because I read that john singleton grew up in south central and filmed these movies in his neighborhood, and hired people from his neighborhood to be on his crew, whereas the hughes brothers have been criticized for being suburbanite tourists doing their hood movie to confirm all the greatest fears of white people and in fact Tupac was originally cast in Menace but he got fired after he beat up one of the Hughes brothers for allegedly being a poser, and by the way did you notice that now that they made it in hollywood they’re off doing some white people comic book movie about jack the ripper?
(I only say that for educational purposes, though, because actually I agree that Menace is a better picture and the Hughes brothers are born filmatists having also given us Dead Presidents and last year’s best documentary American Pimp. But Baby Boy is pretty good though even still.)
spoiler warning: there is spoilers in this warning
a warning: If you sense the end coming on you might want to duck out early, because the ending really pusses out in my opinion. Suddenly Jody learns to move out of his mom’s house and somehow that solves all of his problems. Now we’re supposed to believe he’ll stop cheating on his girl, and he marries her and he’s happy. And we’re supposed to forget that he has another baby from another mama that he’s NOT taking care of. And we’re supposed to believe that nobody’s gonna come looking for Tha Dogg and say, “Oh hi, Jody, you moved in to where Tha Dogg told his parole officer he was living? That’s interesting. Anyway, did you know he is dead? Do you know anything about that? Oh, okay. I guess we’ll never know who killed him, then. Oh well.” Come on Singleton. You’ve probaly seen Homicide: Life On the Streets. get it together before shaft 2, please.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.