First off, my frequency of reviews has dipped a bit lately. That’s not due to anything other than me not having much to watch right now. A lot of my reviews are down to my Lovefilm rentals and for once they’ve sent me a game. Portal 2 if you must know. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and just go buy something. That something was Pootie Tang. I should probably try to say one of his quotes on the link button…
Pootie Tang (Lance Crouther) is the story of an ass kicking, woman lovin’, musical genius/movie star named Pootie Tang. He’s one part Blaxploitation era bad-ass, on part 90s hip hop music video and has more than a sprinkling of funk running through his veins. When Pootie isn’t making movies or blowing peoples perceptions of music apart with nothing but silence he travels around the small town of Chicago taking out the local trash with a whip of his belt. This belt was handed down to him by Daddy Tang (one of 3 roles played by Chris Rock). It is the source of his power and as you’d expect when it gets stolen his ability to be Pootie Tang diminishes. At it’s base this film is about a man who’s a total bad-ass that everyone wants to be but after losing his cool he runs away in search of himself. Really the film is about funny random stuff and people getting whipped with a belt.
Pootie Tang, as the narrator and Pootie’s best friend Trucky explains, is too cool for words. He doesn’t say much and what he does say is largely incomprehensible to us. Oddly though no-one in the film has any trouble understanding him. Basically it’s the same joke as Kenny from South Park. Not the first time it’s been done, won’t be the last. What it does mean is that as an audience we’re left with a character who can’t even engage in dialogue with the rest of the cast. But this film isn’t one to string it’s together through scenes of dialogue. Unfortunately this causes the films story and pace to stutter along as you end up feeling that what you’re watching is a series of skits strung together with only the most basic of frameworks. The film is also very slow to get started. It’s around 40 minutes in when Pootie’s belt is stolen and he loses his funk. That first 40 minutes, though quite funny, is really just a series of scenes showing us how cool Pootie is. Every character gets a short introduction too which at first fits the film style but then works towards it’s detriment.
But this is a comedy, and many comedies do keep their story threadbare with the assured payoff of what I believe the kids call “Teh LULz”. Luckily Pootie Tang has plenty of LULz. His dancing to avoid getting shot, Bruce Lee like skills with his belt and the way women go crazy for him all build towards a character that’s pretty likable in an oddly disjointed way. He doesn’t win you over with his personality but his actions too awesome to not enjoy. That’s not to say every joke hits a home run. There’s plenty that does fall flat. But there’s enough there for most people to at least muster a giggle.
Pootie is a constant 90s hip-hop video. It’s almost as though he’s hearing this slick hip hop soundtrack that he’s moving in time to that no-one else can here. He spends every moment he can making sure he looks his best regardless of what he is doing. He also has an odd attitude to women. At one point a woman he spurns screams at his door for Pootie to at least give her something. To which he responds by sliding a saucer of milk out for her. Which she laps up like a starving kitten.
What causes this film to struggle mostly is how poorly the story and characters are defined. Some shoddy editing doesn’t help either leading the latter parts of the film to feel like they’re just things that are happening. It’s bizarre charm is what gives Pootie Tang his cult status though. Like a lot of cult films it isn’t a great film at all, but it tries dammit. Director Louis CK (Best stand up not called Bill Bailey BTW) apparently was kicked out during the editing process and has voiced his distaste for the finished product. Maybe one day he’ll be allowed to get the film back and put it together the way he envisioned it originally. A lot of the story and character elements are literally just told to you through the films narration. At times you’d think the narration was being overly descriptive on purpose, a few scenes really play up to this notion, but most of the time it feels like a clumsy crutch to shift the story along.
Overall Pootie Tang is flawed but loaded with it’s own unique charm. It’s the type of film that sticks in the memory without trying too hard, it’s suggested potential always outweighing the final product. I’m not even gonna try to end this review by quoting any of Pootie Tangs unique lines of dialogue. You really do have to watch it to see just how bizarre it is. I feel as though if after losing his belt Pootie had become a regular guy that could actually have a conversation the audience could understand we would have ended up with a more enjoyable and complete feeling film. As it is it feels unfinished. Funny but very flawed. Also look out for David Cross and Kristen Bell in tiny roles towards the end of the film.