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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Who's the Man?' a Funny Look at Serious Problem

April 23, 1993|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Who's the Man?" (countywide), a raucous, laugh-out-loud comedy, introduces to the screen Doctor Dre and Ed Lover, MTV rap stars, who can be as funny as they are goofy. As Harlem barbers they're so bad their boss strong-arms them into taking a police academy exam. Don't ask why he thinks this would be a good idea, especially since Doctor Dre is about 200 pounds overweight for the job. Naturally, they pass, much to their surprise, if not ours.

In a tradition of black-oriented films that dates back to pioneer filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, "Who's the Man?" baldly mixes entertainment and social consciousness, but backed by a lively, hard-driving score and a fail-safe sense of humor, director Ted Demme blends the mix with the greatest of ease from a script by its stars and Seth Greenland. "Who's the Man" gets serious about reclaiming Harlem from gangs and drugs and staving off developers who build housing that none of those displaced by its construction could hope to afford. Meanwhile, there's a nonstop parade of hip-hop stars appearing in walk-ons. There's even a cameo by Ice-T as a drug dealer ashamed of his real name, which is Chauncey.

Nobody takes these rookies seriously, but to be sure, they're brighter than they act, and they smell a rat when they discover a smooth, rapacious builder (Richard Bright) is running soil tests on property he plans to develop.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 27, 1993 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 8 Column 3 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Credit-- Seth Greenland has the sole screenplay credit for "Who's the Man?" Doctor Dre and Ed Lover collaborated with Greenland only on the story, not the script, as stated in Kevin Thomas' April 23 review.

Dre and Lover are lively entertainers, and, besides Bright, they're backed by Badja Djola as a smart, successful man whose gambling debts have placed him in Bright's thrall and by Jim Moody as their courageous, activist boss, a barber who once cut the hair of Adam Clayton Powell. Also on hand are other MTV stars Denis Leary and Colin Quinn. "Who's the Man?" (rated R for strong language) surely could not have worked had it not been filmed right on the vital streets of Harlem, with the scarred elegance of its old buildings and its sadly vacant lots captured lyrically by cameraman Adam Kimmel.

'Who's the Man?'

Doctor Dre: Doctor Dre

Ed Lover: Ed Lover

Badja Djola: Lionel Douglas

Jim Moody: Nick Crawford

A New Line Cinema release of a New Line Cinema production in association with Tin Pan Apple/de Passe Entertainment/Thomas Entertainment. Director Ted Demme. Producers Charles Stettler, Maynell Thomas. Screenplay by Doctor Dre & Ed Lover and Seth Greenland. Cinematographer Adam Kimmel. Editor Jeffrey Wolf. Costumes Karen Perry. Music Michael Wolff, Nic. tenBroek. Production design Ruth Ammon. Sound Rosa Howell-Thornhill. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

MPAA-rated R (for strong language).

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