"King's Ransom" is one of those movies you suspect was built from the title up. Somewhere in a pitch meeting someone must have piped up: "I know. We'll have a guy named 'King' and he gets kidnapped, see? So there's a 'ransom'! 'King's Ransom,' get it? After that, I've got nothing."
Which is pretty much what this supposed comedy has going for it. Perennial sideman Anthony Anderson steps into a rare leading role but is left looking as if he's waiting for someone to show up with the real script.
Anderson plays Malcolm King, a marketing mogul on the brink of selling his company for $25 million just as his gold-digger wife, Renee (Kellita Smith), is divorcing him and seeking half of everything -- including King Enterprises.
Unwilling to share his fortune and with a nudge from his bootyful half-wit mistress Peaches (Regina Hall), Malcolm hatches a harebrained kidnapping scheme. Meanwhile, Renee (fearing her infidelities will diminish her settlement), Angela (a disgruntled exec played by Nicole Parker) and a clueless loser named Corey (Jay Mohr) devise competing abduction plots of their own.
Due to a series of mix-ups, Charlie Murphy, as Peaches' down-low, ex-con brother, Herb -- Peaches and Herb, get it? -- winds up holding Malcolm's parking valet (Donald Faison) hostage at a swank hotel, while Malcolm is holed up with Corey in the ramshackle basement of his deaf and drunk grandma (Jackie Burroughs). From there, the movie plays out to its dissolute resolution.
Loretta Devine, as Malcolm's sassy executive assistant, is about the only member of the cast able to walk away from this dud with any dignity. It's no "Soul Plane," but the filmmakers do seem intent on finding equal-opportunity, offensive stereotypes for everyone. Directed by music video veteran Jeff Byrd (a Spike Lee protege) from Wayne Conley's screenplay, "King's Ransom" is lifeless and laughless and certain to quickly make its way through the ancillary worlds of DVD, pay-per-view and premium cable.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor and language
Times guidelines: Crude and sexual, yes; humor, not so much.
A New Line Cinema presentation of a Catch 23 Alter Ego production. Director Jeff Byrd. Producer Darryl Taja. Executive producers Toby Emmerich, Matt Moore, J. David Brewington Jr., Mike Drake, Jeremy Barber. Screenplay by Wayne Conley. Cinematographer Robert McLachlan. Editor Jeff Cooper. Music Marcus Miller. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.
In general release.