Brimming with imagination and energy, Hollywood Shuffle is the kind of shoestring effort more appealing in theory than execution. Produced, directed and co-written by actor Robert Townsend, pic is a freeform look at the trials and tribulations of black actors trying to make it in today’s Hollywood. Scattershot humor misses as much as it hits.
At a cattle call for a blaxploitation pic to be made by a white production company, Townsend starts to feel guilty and questions if what he’s doing is right after he gets the part. Scenes in the actor’s subconscious are dramatized on screen.
Most amusing of these is a school for black actors, run by whites, of course, where the students are trained to shuffle, jive and generally fit the preconceived notion of what blacks are like. Another brilliantly conceived bit is Sneakin’ into the Movies, a takeoff of the Siskel & Ebert film reviewing TV show.
Performances of the ensemble cast, many of whom play more than one role, are likeable but without much that sticks to the ribs. Production values are predictably crude given the film’s $100,000 budget.