A Wild ‘Ride’ Into the World of the Rap Music Industry
Given the El Dorado aspects of the rap music industry--which seems to rival only the NBA as the dream career of underprivileged youth--"Ride,” a rap-meets-road movie, sort of blows its chance at making any serious comment about the big business of black culture.
At the same time, it’s just about as funny as it is vile--a lot of the humor is either scatological, sophomoric or sexist--and its eclectic cast of characters alone is enough to make “Ride” worth the trip.
They include Leta Evans (Melissa De Sousa), a would-be film director from NYU who’s lowered her sights to music videos--and, even further, to V World, where the thoroughly unscrupulous Freddy Brown (Luther Campbell) and his imperious director, Bleau Kelly (Downtown Julie Brown), virtually Shanghai her into the job from hell: taking a busload of the label’s young and hungry to a video shoot in Florida--via the MIR spacecraft of luxury tour buses.
With less music than you’d expect (by Onyx, Wu-Tang Clan, Naughty by Nature and others) and more formula than you’d hoped, the busload makes its way through Jersey and points south as romances ebb and flow and interpersonal relationships fray and ravel. Tuesday (Kellie Williams) thinks she’s pregnant by Brotha X (Sticky Fingaz); Casper (Rueben Asher), of the black-white act Casper and Indigo (Guy Torry), is hoping to meet his father and hoping that he’s black.
Poppa (the magnetic Malik Yoba), who plays spiritual guidance counselor to the group and provides the love interest for Leta, can’t keep his brother Geronimo (Fredro Starr) under control. Geronimo, meanwhile, is being pursued by Peaches and Byrd--played by the Lady of Rage and Dartanyan Edmonds as the duo who once robbed the entire Apollo Theater audience for booing them off the stage--because he’s made off with the money they stole from a comic Asian store owner. (Do hip-hop comedies always have to have a comic Asian store owner?)
Leta’s middle-class values/virtues are employed to a certain degree in writer-director Millicent Shelton’s script, but any dramatic excavation of black multiculture is only hinted at. In fact, Shelton (her producers are the Hudlin brothers, Reginald and Warrington) uses a lot of shtick and a lot of dubious material that relies on stereotyping and racist attitudes.
But, at the same time, she keeps the whole thing moving along maybe not at top speed but with a rhythm, as well as a destination.
* MPAA rating: R, for pervasive strong language, including sex-related dialogue. Times guidelines: The vulgarity is practically nuclear.
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Melissa De Sousa: Leta Evans
Luther Campbell: Freddy Brown
Malik Yoba: Poppa
Dimension Films presents a Hudlin Bros. production, a Millicent Shelton film written and directed by Millicent Shelton. Producers Reginald Hudlin and Warrington Hudlin. Executive producers Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein and Cary Granat. Director of photography Frank Byers. Original score by Dunn Pearson Jr.
* Now playing in general release.