Review by Mark Walters


I've always thought Dave Chapelle was funny.  His performance in HALF BAKED still makes me laugh, and he even managed to bring a few moments of humor into the otherwise unfunny film SCREWED.  I have great memories of his talk show appearances too, particularly on Conan O'Brien.  From the first time I saw his show on Comedy Central, I knew he was going to be big... finally.  I mean someone like Dave Chapelle is one of those guys that is destined to be a big name, he just needed that one special catalyst to get him there.  Now of course there are times when fame can really mess you up, and I think his newfound celebrity (not to mention his enormous paychecks) might have been a bit overwhelming to him.  All that "moving to Africa" controversy aside, Chapelle has a new film out with his name prominently featured right in the title.

 This quasi-documentary follows Dave around as he puts together a rather impressive block party to be held free for the citizens of Brooklyn.  The first part of the movie focuses on Chapelle handing out VIP tickets to unsuspecting strangers, and chronicles his journey finding the right venue and participants to bring it all together.  Then we're treated to what the public witnessed that memorable day, which is a series of musical performances from various A-list hip-hop artists.  Popular names like Kanye West, Eryka Badu, Common, Mos Def, Dead Prez, and more take the stage for one of the most impressive street concerts in history.

 BLOCK PARTY is almost like two films put together.  The first half is told in behind-the-scenes fashion, and is thoroughly entertaining as well as amusing.  Watching Chapelle try to bring things together is great.  His sense of humor and natural charm not only wins over the hearts of those he encounters, but it scores well with the audience too.  During these segments we're fast-forwarded periodically to a few of the performances, but this only lasts momentarily before getting back to Dave's antics.  I really liked seeing this part of the film, and easily could've watched hours more of similar material.  Once the film turns it's full attention to the actual block party, we're then stuck watching one after another musical act until the whole thing comes to a close.  Now this is not necessarily a bad thing.  The music is for the most part great.  There are some nice touches added too, like Dave recruiting a marching band to play underscore for Kanye West during his famous "Jesus Walks" song.  The whole film is ultimately culminating to a once well known group reuniting for this special event.  I wasn't blown away by the movie, but I did like it.  I think there are a few things that could've made it much better.  For one thing, there is absolutely no explanation about how Chapelle got all these acts to commit to the event, and I would've enjoyed watching those invitations play out.  While the movie does spend time showing Dave work things out with the surrounding neighbors and businesses, other aspects are glossed over or not touched upon at all.  This film had the potential to be a great documentary, but instead comes across as a partial documentary and partial concert flick.  The style in which it's directed is very engrossing, and Michel Gondry proves he can handle real life action just as well as he handles surreal fiction.  It was definitely an interesting choice for a director, but for the most part it works.  So in the end is BLOCK PARTY a missed opportunity?  Not entirely.  However I think it could've been a much more impressive film had the music simply complemented the story rather than overpowered it.  There are a few scenes interspersed late in the film with Dave and Mos Def improving jokes to jazzy music, and it's just so brilliant.  It made me wish there was more of that in the second half.  As great as the music was, that was the stuff that really seemed the most satisfying.  Overall it's still a very fun time at the theater, and it save you fighting the crowds for one heckuva concert.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give BLOCK PARTY a 7.

Visit the official DAVE CHAPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY movie website by clicking here.

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