Friday August 25, 1995
"The Show" is not much more than a glorified ad for its soundtrack album. As the filmmakers have clearly targeted this hip-hop documentary at the converted, they make no real effort to explore the music's sociocultural history in a thoughtful fashion. Assuming that fans will be content to see some behind-the-scenes home movies of their heroes, there's not much effort to get the musicians to break out from behind their onstage facades.
Directed--if that's the word for it--by former TV sitcom actor Brian Robbins ("Head of the Class"), "The Show" is essentially an assemblage of footage of rappers discoursing--if * that's the word for that--on whatever crosses their minds. Among those appearing are Dr. Dre, Naughty by Nature, Tha Dogg Pound, the Notorious B.I.G. and Warren G.
Robbins apparently didn't even try to coax insight from his subjects. Many just ramble along, words tumbling from their mouths in some of the same seductive cadences they use onstage. Nary a sentence passes without the use of one of three pet expletives or the phrase "Know what I'm sayin'?"
The film opens soberly, with brief footage of Snoop Doggy Dogg in court and rap impresario Russell Simmons--who calls success for some artists "a green light to hell"--visiting incarcerated rapper Slick Rick. The gangsta lifestyle is debated to a draw--more contempt is aimed at soft rhymers who ape the gangsta pose to sell records than those who actually pack heat and live on the edge.
A few entertaining moments are mined from this hodgepodge: Darryl McDaniel of Run-DMC recalls the horror he and his group felt when their handlers informed them of the moniker cooked up for the band; Warren G tries to negotiate business diplomatically while on tour, and a rap entourage to Japan turns up a number of cross-cultural laughs.
Other material is less newsworthy. We see a number of rappers inform the camera that their music tells us what's happening in the streets (based on several of the concert numbers, what's happening in the streets is that a few guys are trying to get crowds of people to put their arms in the air and wave them around). There's even a round-table discussion, much like the agents who gather to tell the story of "Broadway Danny Rose," reminiscing over the visionary who first coined the phrase "Yes, yes, y'all." At one point, Method Man blathers on about something or other and members of his entourage just tell him to shut up. Had the movie been made five or more years ago, when the music was just beginning to reach mainstream ears, this all might have seemed somewhat more revelatory.
Public Enemy--perhaps the most significant rap act in the music's history--appears only as a typed name on a page, an egregious oversight. And there's not much discussion of the numerous political attacks on the music.
The highlight is black-and-white concert footage of a special show staged for the film in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the sound mix isn't great and songs aren't played out all the way through (at a recent screening, a group moan went up when the film interrupted a musical performance to return to its talking heads).
Ultimately, the unfocused windiness of the interview segments deplete the power of the music. Those interested should skip the middle man and go directly to the soundtrack. Know what I'm sayin'?
The Show, 1995. R, for pervasive strong language and some drug content. A Rysher Entertainment production, released by Savoy Pictures. Director Brian Robbins. Producer Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins, Robert A. Johnson. Executive producer Stan Lathan, Rob Kenneally. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes. Andre Young as Dr. Dre. Chris Wallace as The Notorious B.I.G.. Russell Simmons as Himself.