by Marty Demarest

I'm not sure White Chicks deserves to be called a Wayans Brothers project. That would put it in the same class as the brutally funny television series In Living Color (available on DVD, by the way), and the successful Scary Movie series. The Wayans way has never been for everyone, but the brothers have always managed to be true to their principles of merciless satirizing of big, important issues like racism and bad movies.

The premise of White Chicks should be perfect fodder. As their target, the brothers have selected white chicks. You know, those conglomerations of makeup and fashion that routinely stand in line at Starbucks looking as though they've never seen the store's selection before, punctuating their sentences with the word "like" instead of the more traditional commas and periods. Clearly there's a wealth of ammunition to be exploded, and the Wayanses even came up with a great way to do it: Dress two of the brothers up as white chicks, complete with Marilyn Manson-looking contact lenses and size fourteen designer pumps.

The reason for this -- and come on, this is the 21st century, you don't need an excuse to dress up in women's clothes -- is that the brothers play FBI agents trying to crack a socialite kidnapping ring. Eager to get in their chief's good graces, they stow two white chicks -- the Wilson sisters -- at a hotel in New York and take their place for a social weekend in the Hamptons.

The Wilsons look different to their friends, but, it turns out, cosmetic surgery has made it impossible to predict what you'll see when meeting people you know. So the explanation of a "knee job" suffices to throw the three best friends off the trail. Later, the brothers/sisters sing along with a hip-hop song on the radio. The Wilsons' best friends are shocked, and one of the girls confronts them about their use of "the N-word." "Nobody's around," is the Wilsons' confused response. After a beat, all five passengers in the car are smiling and singing along.

The entire premise brings to mind the brilliant Saturday Night Live sketches of Eddie Murphy (who posed as a white man) and the stand-up acts of Richard Pryor. This is territory that's been covered before, and we've already been disarmed with all the good jokes. What we need now is a solid send-up of the ways that white American popular culture is blindly co-opting African-American culture. It's perfect material waiting for brutal comedy - but apparently not the kind of comedy to be done anytime soon by the Wayans brothers.

A good rule of thumb in a satire is to make sure the object of satire is recognizable. Apparently, according to the Wayans brothers, rich white chicks carry knock-off Louis Vuitton bags and drink at exclusive Hamptons beach bars that serve - exclusively - Michelob beer. So any white chicks attending a screening of White Chicks, take heart. The Wayanses make black dudes look far worse than anyone else. Not just because they're the rude, stupid ones -- but because they made this movie.

Publication date: 07/01/04

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