Reel Shorts | The Lottery Ticket

20 08 2010

This feature first appeared in Jet Magazine.com. To read this review at its original source, click here.

Fifteen years ago, F. Gary Gray’s comedy, “Friday” cleverly explored the story of two friends who spend the day smoking weed, chasing the neighborhood ladies and learning life lessons. While “The Lottery Ticket” treads the same terrain, this updated version lacks the imagination and humor, and wallows in negative stereotypes of African Americans disguised as comedy.

Down in the ATL, lottery fever is everywhere. With the jackpot sitting at $370 million it seems that everybody is getting in on the action. Apparently, the only person not interested in cashing in is mall employee, Kevin Carson (Bow Wow). A burgeoning sneaker designer, he sells sneakers at Foot Locker when he is not hanging out with his childhood friends, Benny (Brandon T. Jackson) and Stacie (Naturi Naughton). Kevin lives with his religious grandmother (Loretta Devine) who sends him to play her numbers that she got in a dream from Jesus himself…while driving a bus!

He plays her numbers and chooses one of his own that ends up being the winning ticket. Unable to cash in the winning ticket until after the Fourth of July holiday, Kevin and his friends must try to keep his good fortune secret while escaping the wrath of the neighborhood bully, Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and his crew. Once the secret is out, the effects of Kevin’s newfound wealth changes everyone around him, forcing him to truly distinguish between friend and foe. Even the local crime lord, Sweet Tee (Keith David) advances Kevin and his friends $100K and his henchman Jimmy to chauffeur around the new neighborhood millionaire. With everybody’s hand out, rivals trying to jack his ticket and a chance to finally live the American dream, will Kevin succumb to the pressure and throw it all away or find inner strength and reconnect to his community?

“The Lottery Ticket” wants to embrace its inner Friday by setting up a story that replaces Ice Cube with Bow Wow, Chris Tucker with Jackson and Tiny Lister’s Deebo with Akinnagbe’s Lorenzo. Cube even shows up as a reclusive former boxer, Mr. Washington who has lived in a basement for over 20 years and is the eyes and ears of the hood. Dispensing wisdom and a thunderous right hand, Washington is Kevin’s guardian angel and protector who warns him to “always protect himself.”

Unfortunately, screenwriter Abdul Williams’ script is filled with stereotypes that perpetuate hood mythology. There is the so-called religious grandmother, the storefront preacher who is more interested in material possessions over spiritual enlightenment, the neighbor dime looking for a payday and countless other thinly drawn characters who are desperately in search of a piece of Kevin’s financial action. Even his best friend Benny’s loyalty comes into question in one of the strongest acted scenes in the film. Naughton is the film’s lone bright spot as the love interest secretly pining for Kevin and is the only character with no hidden agenda.

Produced by Cube, it is clear that this latest effort is a poor attempt to capitalize on his earlier film’s success. After suffering through negative portrayals heaped upon us by White filmmakers, it is very disheartening that we are our own worst enemies continuing to wallow in our degradation all for the love of money. Once you strip away the film’s woeful message, what you’re left with is a steaming pile of cinematic excrement with a little bit of message sprinkled on top which cannot mask the terrible smell. Despite the filmmaker’s best intention, this pitiful story is definitely not the winning “ticket!”

Grade: D+

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One response

6 06 2011
CMrok93

No doubt the characters are stereotypes, but the performances are handled with a knowing wink and a great deal of fun.

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