27 May 2005 | davesteele-1
Great Idea, Poorly Executed
Someone needed to make a movie like this, a commentary on how white suburban teenagers have latched onto hip-hop and "ghetto" culture, and made it part of their identity, when in reality they don't have a solitary clue of what it means to be Black in America. Someone needed to make a movie that made the point that white America's affinity for Black culture rarely translates into actual understanding of Black people as actual human beings, or into an understanding of their situation. Someone needed to make a movie that showed hip-hop-as-consumed-by-white-kids as what it is: a new version of a very old theme in American popular culture -- the Black man as dirty savage, cunning and dangerous, yet stupid and witless at the same time.
But "Whiteboys" is not this movie. The movie can't seem to decide if it's a comedy or a cutting social commentary, or both. So it fails as both. The central problem is that the main characters are stereotypes themselves, the East Coast-imagined version of what someone in Iowa is supposed to be like. It's impossible to believe that Flip and his gang are for real. Flip especially comes off as a delusional mental patient, not as a misguided, out-of-touch kid. The images of farm life were as cartoonish as the images of hip hop life the movie was mocking. Perhaps this was part of the point, but all of the overlapping of targets of parody just made the whole matter confusing.
The movie would have been much better off if had ditched the whole Iowa-farmer theme, stopped reveling in stupid images of kids rapping in farm fields, and instead focused on a group of kids in Any-Suburb USA, the kind of kids that we all have met -- privileged white kids who are drawn to the false glamor of ghetto life presented on TV, utterly oblivious to their own privileged station in life.