Review: ‘Do the Right Thing’

Spike Lee combines a forceful statement on race relations with solid entertainment values in Do the Right Thing.

Spike Lee combines a forceful statement on race relations with solid entertainment values in Do the Right Thing.

Lee adopts the durable theatrical format of Street Scene as his launching point, painstak- ingly etching an ensemble of neighborhood characters on a Bedford Stuyvesant block in Brooklyn. Centrepiece is Danny Aiello’s pizza parlor, which he runs with his sons John Turturro and Richard Edson, with Lee delivering takeout orders.

On the hottest day of the summer, a myriad of contemporary issues covering personal, social and economic matters are laid on the table in often shrill but sometimes funny confrontations. Ossie Davis is perfect casting as a sort of conciliator, a hobo nicknamed the Mayor who injects folk wisdom into the discussion.

Standing out in a uniformly solid cast are Ruby Dee, the Earth Mother of the microcosmic community; Aiello, Turturro and Edson as three quite different variations on an ethnic theme; Paul Benjamin, Frankie Faison and Robin Harris as the funny trio of kibitzers on the block, and Roger Guenveur Smith as he creates an unusual, poetic figure of a stammering simpleton (who sells photos of black leaders) in the midst of such confident figures.

1989: Nominations: Best Supp. Actor (Danny Aiello), Original Screenplay

Do the Right Thing

Production

40 Acres & a Mule. Director Spike Lee; Producer Spike Lee; Screenplay Spike Lee; Camera Ernest Dickerson; Editor Barry Alexander Brown; Music Bill Lee; Art Director Wynn Thomas

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1989. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Danny Aiello Ossie Davis Ruby Dee Richard Edson Giancarlo Esposito Spike Lee

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