I'll admit it. I was happy when "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" didn't do so well at theaters. Why? Because for every unsuccessful movie like this, it means that ten more movies like it are never going to be made. No, I'm not racist, I like comedy and I even like Dave Chappelle, but there are certain movies - especially documentary-esque films about comedians or musicians on tour - that just shouldn't waste a big screen. Movies like this could easily go straight to DVD and be just as good, if not better.
All that said, I didn't know what to expect as I popped in the DVD. I had heard absolutely rave reviews from all critics, but I generally am not a fan of stand-up comedy movies (okay, so here's the white boy in me - I really, really liked "The Blue Collar Comedy Tour" or whatever it's called), and not just for the reasons expressed above. I love stand up comedy live, but when watching on TV I lose interest quickly.
Surprisingly, "Block Party" is not a stand-up comedy routine. Sure, Chappelle jokes around at times, but he's only the host and has a relatively small role compared to the variety of major singers and rappers that perform. The movie is more for entertainment than for comedy, and people from Kanye West to Mos Def to a high school marching band perform. Honestly, I don't like rap music very much, and I don't like hip-hop, but the music in "Block Party" is, I'll admit, pretty good and pretty entertaining. I only recognized half of the singers (yes, I'm a twenty-something guy, so sue me!) but found them to be quite good, even if it isn't the kind of music I'd normally listen to. Kanye West is especially good, but that comes to no surprise.
Unfortunately, ironically enough, what the movie lacked was comedy (yes, which is what I was just complaining about) and Mr. Chappelle. I expected and wanted more of his jokes, and after about half an hour he is nearly nonexistent from the picture.
And, like all of these entertainment venue documentaries as I call them because I'm not clever enough to think of something better, the movie does begin to lose its focus and entertainment value about two-thirds in. That's longer than most, but there still isn't enough to warrant a full length movie. To me, the music kept getting more and more annoying (and not good) and there was more and more of it, to a point where I basically just tuned it out and focused on my laptop.
Fans of rap and hip-hop music should enjoy seeing a lot of big names perform in a rather laid back setting, and Chappelle delivers some good jokes here and there. Fans of Chappelle will be disappointed to find that he is not the center of attention, however, and because of that the movie just feels like a videotaped concert after a while.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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