Continuing in the bold tradition of centering a movie around a place or event in the African American community (see The Wash, Barbershop and Beauty Shop, to name a few), Queen Latifah has decided to run the horse into the ground, and subsequently throw it over the coals, in a film she wrote and appears in, entitled The Cookout.
The concept of the film is simple enough that everyone can identify with it; cookouts are a good time where friends and family, sane and crazy, can get t…gether over food and drinks, and have a good time. When Todd Andersen (Storm P) is drafted into the NBA, the next few days are a whirlwind of enjoying his soon to be fame, though his mother (Jenifer Lewis, Antwone Fisher) is trying to make sure he stays grounded and close to his roots. Though he does manage to buy a huge house and move into an upper class neighborhood, and everyone is afraid of the new neighbors, none more terrified than Mr. and Mrs. Crowley (Danny Glover and Farrah Fawcett). Todd decides to have a cookout with his family, some of whom are played by Frankie Faison (Red Dragon) and Tim Meadows (Ladies’ Man). Along with Todd’s family is his agent (Jonathan Silverman, Weekend at Bernie’s) and girlfriend (Meagan Good, You Got Served). During all of this, Todd tries to do what he can to balance his family with his newfound celebrity and keep his sanity, all at the same time.
Admittedly, the story is pretty cute, and if they kept to that, along with the family dynamic, I probably would have enjoyed it a bit. But the story, which appears to have been thought out by 3 people (4 others wrote the screenplay) has too many voices in it that make it a bit muddy. You’ve got your gross-out American Pie jokes every so often, you’ve got your “white people are uptight and scared of black people” stereotypes, and the ending, even though it’s neat and tidy, is too much, even for my sensibilities. However, there was a lot of footage of food, preparing it, cooking it, and buying it, and since I like food, I couldn’t (in good conscience) completely trash The Cookout or the effort put into the DVD.
Movies with low budgets and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack always seem to impress me, in the sense that the money was spent to make the film sound good. The Lion’s Gate folks have put together a good track that’s pretty active through the film, with adequate, perhaps necessary, low end subwoofer action to boot.
Even though it’s in two separate versions, the widescreen version of The Cookout comes in a very sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The black levels are solid and there aren’t any significant issues with contrast, the image is much better than I would expect.
The gang has put some thought into the extras of the film, starting off with a quick, painless introduction by Lewis and Storm P, who reteam for a commentary on the film. They pretty much watch the film and don’t add too much. Next are about 10 minutes worth of deleted scenes that, for the most part, justify their excision from the film. After that are 4 featurettes that can be played individually or consecutively, running about 40 minutes in length. They cover the cast’s thoughts on the film and on cookouts themselves, along with the difficulties of shooting some scenes, and a discussion on the components for a good cookout. From there, 2 trailers are included, along with some cast member recipes for good cookout food. It’s a pretty novel inclusion and goes with the theme of, well, everything on the DVD.
Lion’s Gate has actually put together a pretty good DVD package and the film’s presentation is decent to boot. As a DVD it’s actually a harmless thing to have in your library, but you should rent the film (or see it on cable) first before making a decision
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- 4 Featurettes