The Cookout

Todd Anderson is getting close to hitting it big.  He was the number one pick for the Nets, and to celebrate, the Anderson family is having their annual cookout in his brand spanking new mansion, in an exclusive neighborhood.  It's a good thing that Anderson (Storm P aka Quran Pender) has his parents Jojo (Frankie Faison, White Chicks, Gods and Generals) and Lady Em (Jenifer Lewis, Antwone Fisher, Juwanna Mann) to keep him grounded.  Or so they think.  The annual family cookout quickly escalates out of control, leading to a clash of nearly every single offensive African-American stereotype out there in the media.  The Cookout is also the first film from Queen Latifah's production company.  Latifah (Barbershop 2, Scary Movie 3) also has a small part in the film and helped to come up with the story.  While her career as an actor is on the fast track, as a writer, she needs to do more than slap a bunch of silly things together and call it a story.

Things go downhill from there.  Anderson and his agent Wes (Jonathan Silverman, Made, Lip Service) are trying to negotiate some sponsorship deals, and Anderson has to deal with Brittany (Meagan Good, You Got Served, Deliver Us from Eva), his new gold-digging girlfriend.  Anderson doesn't realize that he needs to earn money before spending it.  His mansion, new car, new clothes, and gifts for his parents are putting him in debt, and he really needs this endorsement.  Hijinks ensue when negotiations begin and his wacky extended family begins showing up.  Leroy (Tim Meadows, Mean Girls, Wasabi Tuna) has failed the bar numerous times and constantly spouts off various conspiracy theories.  Lady Em now has a butler (Gerry Bamman, Runaway Jury, Two Family House).  Then, here are people that barely even appear like a grandfather, a cousin with a bunch of kids, two hick cousins, and two really fat cousins.  Plus, there is whitewashed neighbor Judge Crowley (Danny Glover, The Royal Tenenbaums, Boesman and Lena) and his wife (Farrah Fawcett, Dr. T and the Women, The Lovemaster), and some random thug (Ja Rule, Scary Movie 3, Half Past Dead) and his idiot sidekick (Ruperto Vanderpool, Lovesick, Red Passport).  Believe it or not, there are still more people.

Everybody converges on the Anderson mansion, much to the annoyance of the gated community security guard (Latifah).  Of course, everybody is in shock that a black man is wealthy, and they all fear the neighborhood is going downhill.  The black people are loud and play loud music!  And they're having fun!  How dare they!  There is a moral about family, but it gets lost in the racket.  It also relies on the fact that it is believable that Anderson is blind to Brittany's machinations and is dumb enough to spend away all his money before he even has any.

The Cookout plays like a comedy sketch that runs way too long.  Along with Latifah, Shakim Compere and Darryl French are credited with the story, while Laurie B. Turner, Ramsey Gbelawoe, and Jeffrey Brian Holmes are credited with the screenplay.  This is the first screenplay for all of them, and it feels like they are assuming that nobody has ever seen a movie before.  Everybody acts too buffoonish to be believable, and director Lance Rivera (also directing for the first time) really does nothing to hold the interest of anybody watching.  Aside from Lewis, everybody is overacting and way over the top.  To top it all off, The Cookout ends with one of those annoying montages that tell what happens next to the various people in the movie.  It doesn't really matter what happens to any of them when nobody cares about them in the first place.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 25 minutes, Rated PG-13 for drug content, sexual references, and language.

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