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'White Chicks' can, like, totally pull it off

The Wayans brothers' identity farce, gross-out humor and physical clowning muscle to the comedic forefront.

June 23, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

The rowdy "White Chicks" has Shawn and Marlon Wayans, handsome, buff and African American, passing themselves off as a pair of socialite sisters who seem rather clearly inspired by Paris and Nicky Hilton.

Thanks to the wizardry of special effects makeup artists Greg Cannom and Keith Vanderlaan, the Wayans brothers' transformation is amazingly convincing, if a little eerie. Their blond and blue-eyed Brittany and Tiffany Wilson are broad-shouldered and have awfully big hands for girls, but they pass, however clumsily. (Makeup techniques have come a long way since Godfrey Cambridge woke up to find himself a white bigot in Melvin Van Peebles' "Watermelon Man.")

Marcus and Kevin Copeland (Marlon and Shawn, respectively) are a pair of feckless FBI agents who have been assigned to escort Brittany (Maitland Ward) and Tiffany (Anne Dudek) from the airport to their hotel in the Hamptons. A plot to kidnap the sisters has been uncovered, and they have been placed under FBI protection. Spoiled and bratty, the sisters have flown in from Beverly Hills for the end of the social season in the Hamptons, where the women will vie with rivals to get their picture on the cover of Hamptons magazine, which to them is the most important thing in the world.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 26, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
"Watermelon Man" -- The review of "White Chicks" in Wednesday's Calendar section said that in the movie "Watermelon Man," Godfrey Cambridge woke up to find himself a white bigot. Actually, he went to sleep a white bigot and awakened as a black man.

The women have brought along their yippie little diamond-collared dog, which promptly causes a minor traffic accident on the way to the hotel. One sister has a small cut on her lip, the other a scratch on her nose. Although these injuries could easily be covered up, the women go into a major tizzy. They see no recourse but to hole up in a Manhattan luxury hotel suite; Marcus and Kevin see no recourse but to impersonate the sisters publicly if they are to have a prayer of saving their jobs. Luckily, they have a friend who is a gifted makeup artist.

Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans and written by a clutch of Wayans brothers and others, "White Chicks" is off and running from frame one, and when Marcus and Kevin are in drag, it shifts into high gear as the guys in disguise improvise their way through the Hamptons' social whirls. The Wayanses understand that nowadays there's so much social mobility in the world of the filthy rich that it's scarcely worth trying to satirize, and instead they go for a classic assumed-identity farce.

The movie is full of calamities that allow the Wayans brothers to demonstrate their talent for physical comedy. Just 10 minutes short of two hours, "White Chicks" is awfully long for a comedy yet is remarkably well sustained, no small feat for farce.

While Marcus is hounded by his suspicious wife, Gina (Faune Chambers), he also finds himself pursued by Darnell Johnson (Terry Crews), a muscular star athlete. Crews proves that California's governor is not the only bodybuilder-actor with a sense of humor, and his relentless romantic antics and Marcus' means of warding them off contribute some of the movie's funniest moments. (The Wayanses are not shy about indulging in gross-out humor, but they bring a lighter touch to it than most.)

The faux Wilson sisters are instantly latched upon by three pals, Karen (Busy Philipps), Lisa (Jennifer Carpenter) and Tori (Jessica Cauffiel), from whom Marcus and Kevin not only pick up pointers about hair, makeup and clothes but discover how vulnerable women can be when they strive for perfection in appearance and set their sights on a particular man. The Wayanses could easily have poked fun at these three, but they instead treat them with compassion.

"White Chicks" looks great and moves well, and along with the versatile and easygoing Shawn and Marlon Wayans and Crews, Philipps and Carpenter make strong impressions amid a large cast that includes John Heard as the aristocratic villain. Even if it lingers a bit too long, "White Chicks" represents a solid accomplishment for the crowd-pleasing Wayans brothers.


'White Chicks'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some drug use.

Times guidelines: The film's raunchy elements are fairly mild, and most parents would be likely to find the film acceptable for children.

Shawn Wayans... Kevin Copeland

Marlon Wayans...Marcus Copeland

Terry Crews...Darnell Johnson

Busy Philipps...Karen

Faune Chambers...Gina Copeland

A Columbia Pictures release of a Revolution Studios presentation of a Wayans Bros. Production. Director Keenen Ivory Wayans. Producers Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez, Lee R. Mayes. Screenplay by Keenen Ivory Wayans & Shawn Wayans & Marlon Wayans & Andy McElfresh & Michael Anthony Snowden & Xavier Cook; from a story by Keenen Ivory Wayans & Shawn Wayans & Marlon Wayans. Cinematorgapher Steven Bernstein. Editor Jeff Gourson. Music Teddy Castellucci. Makeup effects created by Greg Cannom and Keith Vanderlaan. Costumes Jori Woodman. Production designer Paul J. Peters. Art director Eric Norlin. Set decorator Dominique Fauquet-Lemaitre.

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

In general release.

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