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Movies Review : ‘Blankman’ Aptly Named Cartoony Bumbling Hero

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Coming to Save Your Butt!” blare the ads for “Blankman.” Whose butt are we talking about here? Not my butt.

Damon Wayans plays Darryl, a cretinous would-be super-hero--a cross between Jerry Lewis in “The Nutty Professor” and Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon from “She’s Gotta Have It"--who rescues his city from the stranglehold of crime.

Darryl has no superpowers but he’s a great inventor: He concocts Rube Goldberg crime-fighting contraptions. Clunky but game, he goes up against the local mob boss (Jon Polito) and saves the day.

This terrible little movie--directed by Mike Binder and co-written by Wayans and J. F. Lawton--does have a teensy fascination. As with Robert Townsend’s “Meteor Man” last summer, “Blankman” posits a cartoony bumbling super-hero as the way out of inner-city misery. That misery, even in a goofball nothing of a movie like this, is so much more harrowing than the loopy attempts to fight it that the effect is almost poignant.

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David Alan Grier, playing Darryl’s brother, has a few fine low-comic moments, and Robin Givens, as a TV newscaster, keeps flashing a smile that could shatter the Hope diamond. But the all-too-aptly-named Blankman probably won’t make it as a sequelized movie hero.

Wayans may intend him as a sweet-souled avenger, but he comes across less child-like than imbecilic. He’s a fey geek. Can this be what the filmmakers had in mind?

* MPAA rating: PG, for offensive language. Times guidelines: It includes fiery explosions and gangland rub-outs.

‘Blankman’

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Damon Wayans: Darryl Walker

David Alan Grier: Kevin Walker

Robin Givens: Kimberly Jonz

Jon Polito: Michael (The Suit) Minelli

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A Columbia Pictures presentation of a Wife N’ Kids production. Director Mike Binder. Producers Eric L. Gold and C.O. Erickson. Executive producer Damon Wayans. Screenplay by Damon Wayans and J.F. Lawton. Cinematographer Tom Sigel. Editors Adam Weiss. Costumes Isabela Braga. Music Miles Goodman. Production design James Spencer. Set decorator Michael C. Claypool. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

* In general release throughout Southern California.


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