“Def Jam’s How To Be a Player” is a like an R-rated version of a bad black TV sitcom. Acted as if the thesps were trying to take a patent on mugging and jammed with every stereotype from eye-rolling to chicken chomping to nothing-but-sex-on-the-brain, this ultra-broad farce about a guy with a lot of girls on a string will quickly snare a certain portion of the “Booty Call” audience, but isn’t funny enough even in a silly way to develop any staying power.
Steeped in standup and hip-hop culture, pic features some of the most antediluvian sexual politics seen since the reign of Andrew Dice Clay; its “So many women, so little time” outlook might titillate some young male viewers but is sure to turn off most femmes.
Pic chronicles a day in the life of Dray (Bill Bellamy), a smooth-talking young player (“playboy” in your daddy’s day) with a lavish bachelor pad whose only apparent objective in life is to juggle as many women as possible without getting caught, particularly by his perky girlfriend Lisa (Lark Voorhies). Clunky opening couple of reels look just like TV on the bigscreen, as numerous visitors drop by, most notably Dray’s sister Jenny (Natalie Desselle), who notably disapproves of her brother’s lifestyle but also happens to bring along foxy friend Katrina (Mari Morrow), who instantly inspires Dray’s ardor.
When Dray sets out on his rounds with his dimwitted sidekicks, the aptly named Kilo (Jermaine (Big Hugg) Hopkins) and Spootie (A.J. Johnson), and just-jilted cousin David (Pierre), Jenny and Katrina stay back at the apartment looking for incriminating evidence to use against the self-styled stud, whom they have decided to make a case study for an anthropology class. They eventually decide to try to reform Dray by secretly inviting all his ladies to a party that night in Malibu, where the man will finally have to confront the error of his ways.
Dray’s daytime appointments include one with a married woman whose blustering husband turns up at the most inconvenient moment, another with a woman heavily into role-playing, and a stop at Mom’s afternoon barbecue marked by much buffoonery and a chat with Dray’s Uncle Fred (Max (The Mack) Julien), who pontifically dispenses wisdom about the finer points of being a player.
Final half-hour is devoted to the posh Malibu party, where nearly all the women in attendance, from an embarrassing nerd to a voluptuous Amazon, throw themselves at the hero while he tries to slither out of a succession of surprise encounters with his pussycats. Tone is one of would-be slapstick that doesn’t come off, although the situations are squirmy enough to register the requisite comic discomfort while leading to an unsurprising ending that endorses Dray’s score-keeping approach to life; sequence provides loads of time for heavy sampling of soundtrack filler in the background.
First-time director Lionel C. Martin’s extensive background in musicvideos is nowhere apparent in the film’s style, which is strictly coverage-oriented and devoid of visual flair; coincidentally or not, this represents a very rare case of a film without a credit for cinematographer. Other tech credits are very rudimentary, and performances, while sometimes amusing in their brazen attitudinizing, are uniformly broad, beginning with that of standup comic and MTV VJ Bill Bellamy in the lead.