PSA: Pootie Tang (2001), or I Am The Fifth Person To Ever Watch Pootie Tang

8 05 2009

You know, there have been quite a few films to push the boundary of what’s considered funny, but I think this movie has a special place in that realm. There’s weird, there’s unexplainable, and then there’s Pootie Tang. It all sounds so innocent; a comedy helmed by funnyman Louis C.K., produced by Chris Rock, inspired by a sketch on The Chris Rock Show, and featuring a cast of exceptional talent (including Wanda Sykes, Jennifer Coolidge, and Dave Attell!). It sounds like something I would watch on a Saturday night after I sneaked into all the dramatic films playing at the time. But of all the sketches of all the episodes of The Chris Rock Show, they picked the absolute most bat-shit insane concept of them all. It’s a film for a select few, and that’s probably why it did so horribly in theaters, but if you like stuff that’s off the beaten path, you can’t get much more off it than this one.

The premise doesn’t even sound that wacky. It focuses on the ultra-famous music mogul, crimefighter, ladies man, and super-suave playboy Pootie Tang. Everything this guy touches is gold, and everything he does, no matter how ludicrous or unnecessary, is taken as genius. And while not saving the hood from drug dealers, deflecting bullets with his ponytail, selling hit singles without making so much as a peep, and frustrating the ladies with his unwillingness to bed women he doesn’t care about, he makes PSAs (like me!) telling kids to be good, stay in school, and eat their vegetables. So these PSAs, like everything else Pootie does, are TREMENDOUSLY successful, setting kids straight all across the nation. But the evil LecterCorp., run by an even evil-er Robert Vaughn, is not pleased with this, as his products are designed to keep kids down and addicted to fast food, cigarettes, and alcohol. So he and Pootie’s arch-rival, Dirty Dee, try to find out the secret of Pootie’s power, which might be concealed within the magic ass-whoopin’ belt (!!!) he uses to beat down criminals with…

Okay, a little weird, but it sounds okay, right? Magical ass-whoopin’ belt aside, it doesn’t sound like anything that would be off-putting for a large portion of the country, does it? Well, I forgot to mention one thing. Pootie Tang, the main character who happens to have a fair number of lines, doesn’t speak English. He doesn’t really speak any language, per se, but rather a dialect that makes Ebonics read like Lord Byron. It doesn’t make one bit of sense in context with anything, but everyone else in the movie, in the tradition of Charlie Brown’s parents and teachers, seem to understand exactly what he is talking about. Examples of this, in no particular order, include, “Wa-da-tah!”, “Cleepa!”, Sepatown!”, “Cole me down on the panny sty!”, and the immortal, “Sine yo pitty on the runny kine!”. What? Huh? Excuse me?

Completely pointless and confusing, this sounds like a concept that a director might stretch for about 10 minutes, or a bit throughout the whole movie, but Louis C.K. happens to have the biggest balls in history, and he keeps it going THE ENTIRE MOVIE! Completely dead-pan, totally confident in the delivery, whatever Pootie Tang says, people nod their head and go with it. I couldn’t help but laugh considering just how weird and unnecessary it was, and laughing at a comedy is always a plus.

The majority of the movie is spent selling just how cool Pootie is. He doesn’t look it, he doesn’t act it; he just IS cool, and the rest of the cast acknowledges this fact to an obscene amount. This leads to a lot of scenes of people selling this concept, with some hilarious results mostly emanating from Chris Rock, who takes on three different roles for Pootie. He plays Pootie’s father, who first bestows upon him the power of the amazing belt, one of his entourage members, and a DJ who talks about Pootie’s amazing exploits on the air. He put a lot of time into this project, and his particular brand of loud matter-0f-fact wisdom is stamped all over our field of vision.

And what kind of guy is Pootie Tang? What would inspire a studio to spend one dime of their money on this? Well, I think this clip says it all, without saying a word:

Indeed. Pootie done did it again.

It’s not high-brow, by any means. It might be downright brain-dead. I can’t really tell for sure, but if a dumb kid pops his own spit bubbles and laughs every time with a particularly wry smile on his face, just how dumb is he? We’ll never know. I mean, it’s not perfect. I would’ve taken out maybe 90% of the characters, leaving Pootie, his best friend Trucky, Robert Vaughn, and filling up the rest of the film with unknowns and set them up as cardboard cutouts for Pootie to interact with, because a lot of personalities, including the cheese-grater-on-my-balls sound of Wanda Sykes’s voice, irritate after a few minutes. But I honestly wouldn’t change much else. It’s a breezy 70 minutes of really smart/dumb humor involving made-up languages and undeserving bravado, and more people need to at least see the damn thing before they say, “HOLY SHIT! I’M NOT WATCHING POOTIE TANG!” It’s funnier than you think, if you have a very particular sense of humor. Here’s a good gauge: if you liked the Lil’ Jon sketch on Chapelle’s Show, you’ll love Pootie Tang because of its unbelievable dumbness. If you like Doctor Who and Black Adder, or at least pretend you do so your high and mighty friends won’t look down on you, then you will hate Pootie Tang with a passion because of it’s unbelievable dumbness. It’s something that has to be experienced at least once. I give Pootie Tang 6 1/2 Cleepas out of 10. Wa-da-tah!

Tomorrow I hope to get a little crazy while watching some Altered States. Until then!!!!

(Oh, and who of all people asked me to review this movie? Why, it was none other than BREN! She balked at me after watching this, reminding me of how dumb it was, and then she asked me to write about it. Cyclical logic or what?)