6 May 2005 | film-critic
You're like school on Saturday: no class.
Is there an unwritten rule in Hollywood that if you choose to recreate comedy, it has to be less funny than the original so that it doesn't overpower the genuine moment of the first? I am a strong believer that there is such a rule because I fully witnessed it in the film Fat Albert. This film had so much potential that I really wanted to jump into my television and start grabbing necks a-la Homer Simpson. Frustration grew inside of me as jokes were tossed out towards the viewing audience with such disappointment that to laugh would have given the film way too much credit. The characters were flat, the story was "normal chaos that has been done in nearly every other film", and the class of the television program Fat Albert was diminished by cheap thrills and over-budgeting. Did Bill Cosby have a true writing credit to this film? It would be hard for me to believe that he seriously considered this work great, but then again, he is older and has bills to pay
so why not? While the ending tried to bring a tear to your eye, I was already crying at the utter lack of appreciation that this film carried and influenced the youth of our nation.
To say that this film was horrible would be too kind of a word, to quote a line from the film "(Fat Albert is) like school on Saturday: no class" would again, probably be giving it too much credit. From the opening credit sequence to the overly animated cartoons to the lack of animation in the characters when they became real was difficult to watch. Kenan Thompson tries really hard to empower the soul of Fat Albert, but what comes through the screen are just pathetic. He has no backbone and literally, he gives Albert this image of ignorance. Instead of being this helpful friend, Thompson's Albert has these huge glazed eyes that roll around whenever trouble begins. He just didn't seem to have that pizazz that I remember Albert having from the television programs. If Albert was a leader in the cartoon, he was not one in this film. Unless you count the fact that the other actors in this film followed his suit by also leaving their energy at home. Childish humor coupled with this sense of apathy really didn't spark this film onto the level it should have been. I kept seeing glances of this really humorous story about Fat Albert in the real world, but instead I was forced through yet another Cool World. That is how I would best describe this film, Cool World for children.
With our characters firmly not caring about their careers, we are then forced to focus on the non-existent story that apparently the writers of this film chose to not write. Instead of creating a plot with some climactic moments, our writers of this film chose to just let Fat Albert wander until something funny happened. I kept wondering to myself if this was an actual scripted film or just Thompson and Zwick allowing improv to occur anywhere and anytime. Now, if you were working with a genuine comic actor this could have worked (like Robin Williams or Will Ferrell), but with Thompson it just felt forced. Nearly every scene felt forced or overworked in this film. Spontaneity was not an element that these writers considered. This ultimately caused the jokes to be extremely flat. The humor just didn't bring the true life of Albert onto the screen. This is where I question the validity of Cosby being involved with this production. I know he was getting paid, but how much did he work? The jokes felt so old and used that I am surprised that children responded to them. Maybe it was the urban feel that Albert somehow felt comfortable in
who knows? Either way, the loose story allowed for unfizzy jokes, which ultimately lead to the demise of this picture.
Finally, I would like to say that Fat Albert (when I was growing up) was an inspiration and "every man" to us all. The group that followed him and his actions somehow always felt like a part of us. There wasn't anything that could stop Fat Albert from helping another lost soul, and somehow in this film adaptation, none of these old feels could be remembered. It wasn't as if they were trying, but this was definitely not the same Fat Albert that I grew up with. He didn't reach me like he used to, and perhaps it was the larger budget or the lack of imagination, but Albert hurt the soul in this film. I am surprised that he was able to assist Doris in her problem (this obscure problem that was never quite defined), because if I were in her shoes, I would have politely kicked this Albert to the curb. Cosby needed to reconsider his options before allowing this Albert to see the light of day.
Overall, as if you couldn't tell already, this film hurt me. As I watched this dopey picture, I couldn't help but wonder if this film was focused correctly. When it first started I had this feeling that Albert would be called to help Doris with her problem, causing him to be a secondary character (like her own Jiminie Cricket), but instead what happened is that Thompson's camera excitement stole the performance away from Doris while creating a film centered around Albert. This should not have been the case for this to be a truly inspirational film. We lost the central focus of the film, and then the story just went fuzzy. Too many hands in the honey pot with one hand wanting to be on top. It was sad, and ultimately destroyed this film.
Grade: ** out of *****