A black TV executive, Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans), is sick of not being appreciated by his white boss (Michael Rapaport), so comes up with a “minstrel show for the 21st Century”, which proves popular if controversial.
This complete mess of a film is the first from Spike Lee I’ve seen where it feels like the director is bitter and has a bone to pick. The film’s desire to say something about racism in the media is so great that it abandons almost every other aspect of film making, and has a plot completely devoid of any logic or reason.
Pierre’s motivation for creating the show in the first place is never made clear. At different points it seems he’s making it to highlight racism, to cause trouble or to win himself huge ratings and success. None of these seems to be a sensible reason for the creation of one of the most racist shows ever conceived, and the film is weighed down by the sheer implausibility of it all.
Tonally it’s all over the place as its stupid premise is shown with varying degrees of sincerity. It’s not clear if the extended sections of the show are supposed to be funny. They’re not, but they’re also not really anything else except weird and uncomfortable to watch.
Wayans opts for a speaking style where he overpronounces every single syllable. I see the reasoning behind this. As a black character trying to succeed in the predominantly white world of TV he feels the need to form a pretence and to appear as well spoken as possible. But he doesn’t talk like a real person, so his character never conveys much emotion and is impossible to relate to. The rest of the characters are underdeveloped, though, so it’s a very hard film to invest in. The stars of the fictional show (Samion Glover and Tommy Davidson) have a falling out about three quarters of the way through, but since we never felt like we knew them in the first place it fails to add any drama.
Lee thinks he’s making Network, but redirecting its satire towards racism. He isn’t. There’s nothing going on in this film except a hodgepodge of badly executed ideas.With a plot that doesn’t make sense, weak characters, implausibility and racism, anything the appropriately titled Bamboozled was trying to say is lost in the mess
Bamboozled is available free on YouTube.