My first thought after Alec – who I hadn’t had any contact with before I joined Project Terrible – who of all the 200+ movies that Cannon Films and its affiliates produced or distributed, assigned “Rappin'” to me, was: How the fuck did he know that I loathe rap music? 😛 To my own big surprise, though, I ended up actually kinda likin’ it. It’s not a good movie – not by a long shot – but at least, its heart is in the right place. Thus, even thought it ultimately ended up short, you can at least say: “Well, they tried.”
There’s a lot of discussion going on right now about diversity in Hollywood, and how – a couple of franchises like “Fast & Furious” notwithstanding – non-white ethnicities are still very much underrepresented in movies, and are often reduced to the (comedic) sidekick of a hero/main protagonist. So one of the things that I found pleasantly surprising is how this is so not an issue here; in a movie that, one should point out, is now 30 years old. “Rappin'” features a huge variety of characters from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds – afro-american, caucasian, mexican, italian, greek and so on – who, apart from a couple of white dicks who stir up trouble, get along nicely. They stick together and they help each other out, and are a real community. The fact that they’ve got different ethnic backgrounds is no issue at all. You may find it too idyllic, exaggerated and sugar-coated, but I absolutely loved it. Same is true for the choice of bad guys. On the one hand, you have the clichéd asshole boyfriend of his former flame – who, however, is more of a rival and/or a troublemaker, than a full-on villain – and on the other hand, the greedy white business man who forces the (Afro-american; to ensure that the line between good and evil can’t be drawn too neatly into black and white) landlord to neglect his duties in order to make sure that the residents of the building complex move out. Granted, it’s very 80s, very clichéd, and very exaggerated – but in a cheesy kind of way, I loved it.
While we’re at it: There definitely are a lot of scenes that require a huge tolerance level for cheese and/or silliness. For example, we’re not even 10 minutes into the movie, and we already get our first dance-off. The whole movie is anything but subtle, for example in the scene where Dixie is sitting in the studio, heartbroken over John, and of course they’re singing a schmaltzy love song, titled “First love never dies”. The dialogue is similarly edging between hilarious and cringe-worthy at times (“Don’t make me look bad.” “Nothing can make you look bad.”). And, of course, how could I forget the ending, where rap music saves the world… or at least their neighborhood? Not to mention the end credits song where everyone gets his or her own lines to rap along with Rappin’ Hood (Yeah, that’s right, John Hood is called Rappin’ Hood, because he’s rappin’, and his last name is Hood. Also, there’s one scene where he steals from the rich and gives to the poor; I guess with a name like that, that’s pretty much mandatory behavior). However, there’s such an incredibly charming innocence and good-naturedness about the movie, that I actually found those things quite endearing. They meant well, and that definitely counts for something. I also have to say that I found Mario van Peebles – whom so far I’ve only known from his terrible performance in “Jaws: The Revenge” (isn’t it funny how we kinda always come back to that movie? And I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d end up mentioning it again in my upcoming “Mako: The Jaws of Death”-review!) – quite charming in the role. He also has some nice chemistry going on with the uber-sweet Tasia Valenza. And I liked how from time to time, the movie did not go where I expected it to (for example, they make quite a deal out of the fact that Hood needs cash for showing up to make a demo in the studio, so I expected that the producer would screw him over. But instead, he does get the money – but by then, it’s too late.).
Now, obviously, no one in his right mind would actually call “Rappin'” a good film. It’s worst aspect – and given its subject matter, that’s a huge, crucial failing – are the rap songs. Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of music anyway (call me old-fashioned, but I strongly believe that if you make music you should actually be able to sing, and not just talk), so I’m probably not the best benchmark, but I’d like to believe that even I can tell a good rap song apart from a bad one. And the ones featured here really were mostly rather bad. We’re already off on a bad start with the opening number “Rappin’ Hood”, which was extremely clichéd (“Can you dig it?” No, I can’t, sorry.) and not really catchy. The later songs weren’t much better, with “Snack attack” an especially painful piece. Pretty much the only song that I liked was the one that those kids sang. “Can’t you see, he don’t love you, come to me!”. That was funny. The rest was pretty terrible. The whole movie is also very clichéd, and even though some developments surprised me here and there, the overall story is extremely predictable. The finale in the town hall is also incredibly silly. By that time, you’ll either be ready to go with it, or you’ll throw your hands up in despair, and I totally get anyone who opted for the latter. However, I found the movie far too well-meaning, charming and entertaining to actually call it “terrible”. It’s not good, but if you’re willing to roll with all the cheese and silliness, you can have a decent time with it.
Now, “Rappin'” might not be respected, but it’s not as bad as I expected. So just sit back and rap along, or I’ll continue with this song.