#260: Pootie Tang (2001)

Louis CK is on fire right now. With the lauded third season of his eponymous comedy series Louie, and an upcoming role in the next Woody Allen movie, the overweight ginger ball of misanthropy can’t seem to do no wrong. That is, until you look back into his previous cinematic outings. Ladies and gentleman, I woefully bring you the deplorable ‘comedy’ Pootie Tang.

Based on a recurring, throwaway sketch on HBO’s much forgotten The Chris Rock Show, Pootie Tang is a one-note riff on outmoded black culture. With parodies of blaxploitation movies, ludicrously flamboyant attire, chauvinism and sleazzzy R&B music, writer/director Louis CK’s film is an ambitious bricolage of comedic parts. But he never finds a way of meddling them together to create an enjoyable–nay, tolerable–film experience.

The titular Pootie (Lance Crouther) is a pop culture icon. Spending his time making rap music, loving the ladies, fighting crime and strutting around the streets in buttonless silk shirts, he strikes misfortune when corporate CEO Dick Lecter (played by the once incredible Robert Vaughn) gets Pootie to sign a contract agreeing that his famous face can be marketed across Lecter’s fast food, cigarettes and alcohol. From riches to rags, Pootie and his cronies (Chris Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s J.B. Smoove) try to fight their way back into the big time.

With lavish music videos, ridiculous action scenes and bedroom ditties, the one-note joke that ties all the sketches together is that the Tang-man has a way with words. Not any words we he his own vernacular which, like Chewbacca or Snoop Dogg, everyone on screen miraculously understands. With classic lines such as: “you’re a baddy daddy lamatai tebby chai”, and “I’m going to sine your pitty on the runny kine!”; it’s initially a funny concept, just as long as we forget the ‘Jive Talk’ scene from one of the best comedies of all time, 1980’s Airplane!

The main problem with Pootie Tang isn’t that it’s bad, it’s that it’s confusing. With such great talent both in front and behind the screen, you spend the exhaustive 82 minute running time trying to understand how they could coop together to make such a shit storm. Even a cameo from David Cross can’t save it.

Considering Louis CK has complete creative control over his unique dramedy series Louie and it has been so universally acclaimed, this 2001 trainwreck is the archetypal example of how studio executives can corrupt creative minds. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and it’s evidently destructive.

Pootie Tang is categorically unfunny, wretched, and exhaustive. Avoid it like the plague and go watch Louie, The Chris Rock Show, Black Dynamite, or virtually anything else instead.

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