Baby Boy

baby boy.jpg
UK Release Date 23rd November 2001
Director John Singleton
Starring Tyresse, Ving and Snoop
Runtime 123 Minutes
Certificate 18
Reviewer Mark
Reviewed 22nd November 2014

John Singleton’s fast and very loose sequel to Boyz N The Hood is a camp South Central masterpiece. Like a lowrider on Crenshaw Baby Boy bounces crazily from existential hood movie to sex comedy all the way back to plastic sofa cover drama.

Jody Summers is a classic Baby Boy of the title. He’s got two kids with two different mothers, Yvette and Peanut, women barely older than babies themselves. Broke as a joke he treats them both like shit, sponges off his mother, Juanita and glues model cars together under the watchful eye of a Tupac mural. Life is good for this selfish fuck and not since De Niro’s repugnant Jake La Motta in Raging Bull has there been a male protagonist so repellent yet so thoroughly watchable. Boy do you wanna smack him when he leaves Yvette high and dry after an abortion and borrows her car to pay a bootycall to his other squeeze.

Tyrese Gibson plays Jody like a spoilt brat but the smug look is about to be wiped from his model face. Enter OG Melvin; built like a brick shithouse, rocking Stacy Adams shoes straight out of an Iceberg Slim novel and keeping his nose clean after two strikes. And he’s dating Jody’s mum Juanita.  Damn is Jody livid! If the dating wasn’t bad enough Melvin has moved in, cooking breakfast in his birthday suit and drinking all the Kool-Aid. Worse still Melvin and Jody’s mum are going at it like jack rabbits all over the house. Jody can’t say shit as Melvin is played with effortless charm and menace by Ving Rhames who mugs the rest of the cast and runs away with the entire movie.

Things go from bad to worse for Jody when Yvette’s wrongun ex Rodney leaves jail and loafs in her apartment like John Belushi’s The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave. When the inevitable show down kicks off the ending is morally abhorrent but smacks of reality and unlike MC Hammer doesn’t sell out to the masses. Singleton’s subversion of the genre imagery he helped to create is disturbing, wonderful and on occasion downright hilarious. He revels in humiliating Jody especially when he’s forced to ride his bike at the head of a pack of kids like the Red Hand Gang or have him beg his mum to bring him back a burger as she swans off with Melvin.

Singleton’s critique of the black male as child is brave, bold and uncompromising. Early on in the film Jody quotes the psychiatrist Frances Chris Walson, “She says because of the system of racism in this country, the black man is meant to think of himself as a baby. A not yet fully formed being, who has not yet realized his full potential. To support her claim, she offers the following: First off, what does a black man call his woman? Mama. Secondly, what does a black man call his closest acquaintances? His boys. And finally, what does a black man call his place of residence? The crib.” Singleton was a self made man hanging around USC until they made him a student so he hasn’t the time for Jody and his ilk. Even Doughboy in Boyz had some redeeming qualities but Jody is completely self obsessed. 

Baby Boy also flips the father/son relationship of Furious and Trey from Boyz and concentrates on what Singleton sees as the norm in South Central homes the mother/son dynamic between Juanita and Jody. This is particularly well drawn and the exchanges between them are fired with some explosive truths when Juanita blasts her son for having the cheek to suggest he has a say about Melvin, “Your house? Your house? Do you pay any bills up in this motherfucker? Do you fix anything around here? When's the last time you paid a bill? All you do is eat, sleep and shit! Walking around here like you King Tut or somebody... be no mess about who's house this is... this is my house! Mine! And if I wanna bring a man all up and through here, I'll bring a man all up and through here! That's my say! Not yours!”

If you like your hood dramas Oedipal, intelligent, aggressive and fucked up then Baby Boy wont disappoint. If you want a rerun of Menace II Society then you’ll want to steer clear of this bad boy. As for Baby Boy, well it’s just like Melvin says, “That’s grown folk’s music.” 

Check out the trailer here.

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