You know how nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got somethin to say, but nothin comes out when they move their lips, just a bunch of gibberish, and motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre? And this despite the widespread recognition of Dre Day, and everybody’s celebratin? Well, that must be tough for Dre, but it’s even worse for Dré.
Dr. Dre – title abbreviated, name spelled with an ‘e’, not an ‘é’ – is the famous producer/rapper, the genius behind NWA, discoverer of Snoop and Eminem, headphone consultant, Dr. Pepper advocate. He still produces, is still highly respected despite unleashing 50 Cent, appears on commercials all the time but somehow still has a mystique about him. He recently released a song from the album he’s been working on for ten years, so he’s on the cover of magazines and people are really believing it’ll come out in February. And plan to buy it. Most rap careers don’t last as long as just the time people have been anticipating this one album by Dre.
Meanwhile Doctor Dré – title spelled out in full, name spelled with a little wavy thing above the ‘e’ – you could definitely make a strong argument that motherfuckers weren’t acting, they sincerely had forgotten about that particular Dré. Best known as the rotund partner to Ed Lover (UNDISPUTED) when they co-hosted the weekday edition of Yo! MTV Raps for several years, he was also in the group Original Concept and was an early DJ for the Beastie Boys. Since he’d been Doctor Dré before or at the same time as Dr. Dre they both stubbornly held onto their names, but unfortunately for Dré he lost the battle for who could become best known (unlike Common, who dropped the “Sense” from his name but is still better known than the other guy under either name).
(You know what man, why can’t they compromise, like p.t. anderson and Paul W.S. Anderson, who both changed their names in order to avoid another George Miller/George Miller situation? That would be the honorable thing to do in my opinion.)
Well, there’s no Yo! MTV Raps anymore, and in fact all rapping is done by computers now, and the Original Concept CD sells for $85 new so I can’t find out if it’s any good, and DJ Hurricane and Mixmaster Mike have both become much better known as DJs for the Beastie Boys. But Dré still has one thing left: he has WHO’S THE MAN? on DVD. He and Ed Lover co-star and co-wrote it.
WHO’S THE MAN? is a comedy where Dré and Lover play “the worst barbers in Harlem,” who accidentally become inept cops and then have to figure out who killed their friend and mentor, Nick (Jim Moody, the dad in THE LAST DRAGON). I talked about how Kid ‘n Play have opposite personalities so they can work like a comedy team. Ed and Dré just have opposite sizes, but that’s enough. Fat guy/skinny guy = comedy team. Roger Ebert actually liked the movie and wrote, “there’s a good ear for dialogue, a nice comic rhythm, and performances by Lover and Dre which could quite possibly make them into a movie comedy team. The film seems ripe for sequels…My notion is that Who’s the Man? could turn out to be a star-maker.”
Well, I’m glad he liked it at the time. I bet he doesn’t remember it, though. The serious mystery part of the story is obvious and weak, and some of the comedy is worse (like the two scenes where they have trouble communicating with the Asian forensics expert Fuji). But the cinematography and what not is surprisingly slick. It creates this realistic atmosphere that clashes with the cartoonishness of the story and characters. It looks better than a dumb comedy like this is supposed to, and that kind of tricked me, I kept wondering if it was gonna actually be good.
The story is your typical greedy-developers-threatening-idealistic-guy-to-make-him-sell-his-property type deal. Nick won’t sell the barbershop because he once cut Adam Clayton Powell’s hair there and he’s not about to leave the neighborhood to the crack dealers, even if they’re played by KRS-1 and Ice-T. I think it deserves a little leeway for taking place in Harlem, because the gentrification theme seems more vital there than pretty much anywhere else it could be filmed. But the way it’s written it still feels really generic and lazy. It might as well be about Mr. T trying to raise money to stop the community center from being shut down.
And it’s kind of weird that it’s all based around this premise of “what if these two dipshits accidentally became cops?”, because other than some donut jokes and a joke about putting hydraulics on a squad car they don’t really do much with it. They don’t learn any detective skills from the job, and they’re not actually supposed to be on this case, and they never arrest or shoot anyone, and they don’t even get to use the police car for long, and then they stop being cops before the movie’s even over. So I wonder why they weren’t just barbers going out for justice? They just would’ve needed a different explanation of how they got a soil sample tested.
I think their personas aren’t really too thought out either. They’re so terrible at cutting hair that everybody calls them “dickfingers” and says stuff like “I wouldn’t let those two brothers cut my taxes” and “I wouldn’t let them cut my grass.” They wear matching pajamas and watch The Beverly Hillbillies together and Dré is terrified of rats and Ed is always getting slapped by women for lying about sleeping with them and he might be a virgin and when they try to become club promoters their entire Naughty By Nature concert (audience and everyone) gets robbed at gunpoint. Then there’s kind of a serious story as they work on this mystery and they gotta do Serious Face alot. But it’s hard to take them seriously when they’ve been established as such buffoons.
Dennis Leary plays a sergeant who hates them and yells at Doctor Dré alot. It’s not as funny as I think it’s supposed to be, but I like the idea that it infuriates him to see a dude calling himself “Doctor” when his brother had to save up his money, go to school and work really hard for years to earn that title.
By this point Kid ‘n Play were mainly actors. Their last album was in ’91. WHO’S THE MAN? actually had a part in ending the Kid ‘n Play era of pop rap: the first cut on the soundtrack is “Party and Bullshit,” the first song released by the Notorious B.I.G.
This was the feature directing debut of Ted Demme, nephew of Jonathan, who went on to direct THE REF and BLOW and some other stuff before dying tragically young in 2002. He had been a production assistant at MTV before actually creating YO! MTV RAPS, so it’s very fitting that he made the movie that came out of that show. And it looks like he called in a phonebook’s worth of favors on this motherfucker. You got some real actors in there (Terence Howard and Eamonn Walker, the villain from BLOOD AND BONE, are both in it) but most of the cast, including bit parts, is played by famous rappers, comedians and MTV personalities. Leary was a close friend and collaborator of Demme, in fact Demme directed the black and white MTV shorts that made Leary famous. There’s also Colin Quinn, Bernie Mac (HOUSE PARTY 3) and Bill Bellamy. Some of those guys were on MTV shows also, as were T-Money (“the mailman” on Yo! MTV Raps), Kurt Loder (who has a bit part as a hitman, and looks surprisingly right in the part), Fab 5 Freddy (credited as “himself”, even though in the movie he’s a taxi driving pimp), Karen Duffy (aka Duff) and Ken Ober, the host of their game show Remote Control. The rappers who appear in the movie include Salt n Pepa, Ice-T, Apache, Smooth B, KRS-One, Phife from A Tribe Called Quest, Guru, Kid Capri, Kriss Kross, Naughty By Nature, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Eric B, Flavor Flav, B-Real, Everlast, Melle Mel, D-Nice, Busta Rhymes and the Leaders of the New School, Del, Bushwick Bill, Monie Love, Freddie Foxxx, Run DMC and Jam Master Jay (as homicide detectives), Yo-Yo, Humpty Hump, Heavy D, B-Fine, Showbiz and AG, King Sun, Nikki D, No Face, Kool G Rap, Queen Latifah (HOUSE PARTY 2), Bow-legged Lou (HOUSE PARTY, HOUSE PARTY 2), DJ Wiz (HOUSE PARTY 2, CLASS ACT, producer of Kid ‘n Play)… in fact, just about the only people who weren’t in this movie were–
–wait a minute. Kid ‘n Play aren’t in this movie at all! What the fuck am I doing? Please disregard this review.
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.