Don’t bother coming to this awful ‘Block Party’

Ben Breier

Dave Chappelle plays drums in the documentary-style film, Block Party. PHOTO COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Dave Chappelle has been around.

After obtaining television notoriety via his Comedy Central show “Chappelle’s Show,” Chappelle is attempting to find success on the silver screen once again – something the comedian hasn’t seen since 1998’s Half Baked.

Enter Block Party, a documentary-style movie that tells the tale of a Brooklyn bash that took place in 2004. Chappelle gathered several artists in the rap and R&B communities such as Kanye West, Common and Jill Scott. Chappelle even reunited The Fugees for this party – something that hasn’t happened since 1997, according to the Internet Movie Database.

The film begins as a genuine grassroots effort. Chappelle returns to rural Ohio in order to distribute tickets to his party in a Willy Wonka fashion. Chappelle makes sure to invite everybody – from the town’s youth to various senior citizens. He even invites the marching band from Central State to tag along and perform at the party.

When Chappelle finally gets to New York City, Block Party departs radically from a homegrown documentary effort to a gratuitous boast of Chappelle’s massive ego.

Chappelle travels around the Brooklyn area where his party is to be held, visiting an array of sights in the neighborhood – including a thrift store that is loaning the show some furniture, and the childhood kindergarten of famous rapper Biggie Smalls.

After the bare-bones history lesson, the show begins with little fanfare.

With the movie boasting such an impressive lineup of artists, you’d expect the performances to be much better. Kanye West performs “Jesus Walks” with little fanfare and deviation from the way the song was formatted for Top 40 radio. Talib Kweli does a similar rinse and repeat version of “Get By.”

Block Party

Starring Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Kanye West

Directed by Michel Gondry

Distributed by Rogue Picture

Rated R for language

Stater rating (out of five): ?1/2

Rapper Mos Def was the exception to the rule of stale rap performances – his stage presence allowed him to tell jokes and be more comfortable on stage. The fact that he receives more screentime than the other performer can be directly attributed to his likable personality.

The film’s highlight performance was on behalf of The Fugees – largely boosted by Lauryn Hill’s stunning vocals during her rendition of “Killing Me Softly.” No matter how bad of a movie Block Party is, Hill’s familiar melodies will chill you to the bone.

However, it takes a lot more to make a good film than a five minute Fugees exhibition.

In the middle of the block party, Chappelle loses touch with his down-to-earth appeal that made the beginning of the film so interesting. Instead, he gets caught up in the stardom of the performance, pandering down to his audience as he overtly flaunts his name, money and superstar recognition. It’s a disgusting display of self-involvement that really brings the film down.

Without any sense of true focus, Block Party flounders like a dying perch that just washed up onto the shores of Lake Erie. The movie is only 100 minutes long, but it feels much longer due to the movie’s ultimate failure to hold an audience’s attention. Fans of “Chappelle’s Show” will be very disappointed with one of the worst films of 2006.

Contact assistant ALL editor Ben Breier at [email protected].