New Line's "Who's the Man?" is an enjoyable, kinetic mess of music, low comedy and social drama. No matter that it doesn't quite coalesce logically, the film has decided niche audience appeal that will generate respectable business. However, it doesn't quite have what it takes to cross over to a mainstream crowd.

New Line’s “Who’s the Man?” is an enjoyable, kinetic mess of music, low comedy and social drama. No matter that it doesn’t quite coalesce logically, the film has decided niche audience appeal that will generate respectable business. However, it doesn’t quite have what it takes to cross over to a mainstream crowd.

MTV rap jocks Ed Lover and Doctor Dre play vague facsimiles of themselves, here plying away as the world’s worst tag-team barbers in a Harlem tonsorial meeting parlor. But they have bigger plans.

While the duo aspire to be music impresarios, their boss, clipper Nick (Jim Moody), tells them they have to take the police recruiting exam or they will be out on their shears. Of course, guessing wildly on the multiple choice test, they emerge with top scores.

The buffoonishness is short-lived as the story spins out into a too-familiar urban drama scenario. A real estate developer (Richard Bright) — the current reigning movie heavy — is buying up the neighborhood and Nick’s emporium is the sole holdout.

When he’s murdered, the boys inherit the shop and, using their badges, set out to expose the evil speculator’s true scheme and put him behind bars.

Recalling the kind of films his uncle Jonathan made for Roger Corman two decades ago, debutant feature director Ted Demme acquits himself well with an assured, breezy style. However, he has much to overcome in Seth Greenland’s sketch of a script. The balance between the physical pratfalls of the stars and the more serious social/ethnic milieu and crime genre elements of thetale clash in an aesthetic stalemate.

Lover and Dre are a promising screen partnership but need to develop a more distinct screen persona.

Imbued with a wall-to-wall music soundtrack, concert numbers and a host of cameos by such artists as Queen Latifah, Kris Kross and Flavor Flav, “Who’s the Man?” knows exactly who it wants to reach.

The ragtag medley may be a poor man’s “Mo’ Money,” yet its determined frenzy and momentum is ultimately more satisfying than slicker cousins.

Who's the Man?

Production

A New Line Cinema release of a New Line production in association with Tin Pan Apple/de Passe Entertainment/Thomas Entertainment. Produced by Charles Stettler and Maynell Thomas. Directed by Ted Demme. Screenplay, Seth Greenland, story by Doctor Dre & Ed Lover and Greenland.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Adam Kimmel; editor, Jeffrey Wolf; music, Michael Wolff, Nic. tenBroek; production design, Ruth Ammon; set decorator, Sue Raney; costume designer, Karen Perry; sound (Dolby), Rosa Howell-Thornhill; associate producer, Janet Grillo; assistant director, Randy Fletcher; casting, Jaki Brown-Karman, Martha Diaz. Reviewed at the Raleigh Studios, Los Angeles, April 20. MPAA Rating: R. Running Time: 87 min.

With

Ed Lover - Ed Lover
Doctor Dre - Doctor Dre
Lionel Douglas - Badja Djola
Demetrius - Richard Bright
Nighttrain/Chauncey - Ice-T
Teesha Braxton - Cheryl "Salt" James
Nick Crawford - Jim Moody
Sgt. Bo Griles - Rozwill Young
Frankie Flynn - Colin Quinn
Sgt. Cooper - Denis Leary
Lamar - Andre B. Blake
K.K. - Bill Bellamy
Fuji - Kim Chan
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