The latest product of the prolific Wayans family, “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood” is much like its marquee-buster of a title: full of very obvious spoofery, and funnier in concept than in execution. Coming rather late on the heels of the movies it sends up, pic bodes to do little more than score a quick drive-by on urban auds.
Though spirited and hilarious in odd moments, “Don’t Be a Menace” hardly expands on “In Living Color” and other Wayans precedents, and compared with a genuinely satiric film like Rusty Cundieff’s “Fear of a Black Hat,” it’s simple parody, with little in the way of ironic commentary or real invention.
While the targeted filmmakers are the expected crew of top-rank black auteurs , the most frequently lampooned is John Singleton, whose “Boyz N the Hood” provides the prototype for this tale’s fond mockery. Much like “Boyz’ ” hero, Ashtray (Shawn Wayans) is a South Central Candide, sent to live with his father; unlike the father of “Boyz,” Ashtray’s turns out to be only a couple of years older than he is and such a model of irresponsibility that he sings the praises of drunken driving and unsafe sex.
Seeking guidance, Ashtray turns to his cousin, “America’s worst nightmare.” Loc Dog (Marlon Wayans) carries a whole arsenal of Uzis and the like, all color-coordinated with his sneakers, and also keeps a Russian nuclear warhead nearby, just in case. The cousin’s posse includes Preach (Chris Spencer), an Afrocentrist with a yen for white women, and Crazy Legs (Suli McCullough), an aspiring dancer confined to a wheelchair by a drive-by shooting.
Romantically naive, Ashtray soon loses his virginity to the lovely, poetry-writing Dashiki (Tracey Cherelle Jones), whose name supposedly is Swahili for “doggy style.” Popular with the men, Dashiki, it is said, “has more children than Mrs. Wayans.”
Actually, Dashiki has seven kids, while the Wayans brothers who write and star here are children Nos. 9 and 10 in their family. It’s obviously a talented clan, and with their good looks and appealing screen presences, Shawn and Marlon won’t be embarrassed by comparisons to their better-known siblings. Still, they might consider more original avenues of expression, because “Don’t Be a Menace” ends up feeling as thoroughly past-tense as the movies it goofs on, movies that at least seemed fresh on original release.
Pic benefits most from its genial, capable cast. Musicvid-maker Paris Barclay’s direction is little more than serviceable, while tech credits average out at so-so.