Friday, March 24, 2006

Dave Chappelle's Block Party Is One Good Time

When I was in college, I saw Dave Chappelle do a stand-up show way before Chappelle's Show was even thought of. As he stood on the stage, he looked very calm and laidback. He told joke after joke and made the audience howl with laughter but it was never forced. He made it look so effortless.

Part concert film and part documentary, Dave Chappelle's Block Party is driven by Chappelle's relaxed, naturally funny sensibility. Whether in front of a large audience, a few people, or just the camera, Chappelle seems comfortable and content with himself. This, along with the actual event, gives this film a positive, feel-good vibe that has been lacking from hip-hop films as of late.

Directed by famed music video director Michel Gondry, Dave Chappelle's Block Party chronicles Dave as he gets ready to put on a free hip-hop concert in Brooklyn featuring some of his favorite artists. We see Dave as he walks around his Ohio neighborhood handing out golden tickets to the show to random people on the street. The tickets not only get these people into the show, they also provide them with transportation to and from the event. He doesn't discriminate as he gives out tickets to people ranging from two African-American male teenagers to the middle-age white woman who works in the convenience store that sells him his cigarettes. One of the more memorable scenes in the movie occurs when he decides to invite an entire marching band to the concert to perform.

Many of the early scenes in the film show Dave interacting and having fun with real people. He playfully interacts with the kids at a daycare center that is in the heart of the area where the concert is being held. He beat boxes while a hotel employee rhymes and in one hilarious scene during the concert, he challenges a random person in the audience to a hip-hop battle. We also see him talk and interact with the artists participating in the show and also hear them talk about themselves and their music.

Speaking of the music, it's top-notch. The type of hip-hop heard in this film is rarely showcased on the big screen. It was a joy to see and hear artists such as Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, The Roots, Jill Scott, Common, and Erykah Badu perform. I've seen The Roots and Common respectively in concert before and this film captured a lot of the energy of their live performances. Dave Chappelle's jokes during the festivities only made things better.

Any complaints I have with this film are minor. I would've liked to have seen the movie have a little more linear of a structure. I would have rather have seen the footage from the block party all together instead of having some of the performances shown in the earlier parts of the film. Also, this is one film I wish was longer. I would have liked more concert footage (is it just me or did Common not perform any of his own songs in the film?). If any film is screaming out for a 2-disc DVD, it is this one. I sincerely hope to see extra performances and more footage of Dave interacting with people on the forthcoming home video release.

Overall, Dave Chappelle's Block Party is a wonderful film and a good time to be had in the theater. With much of the world questioning his motives (and his sanity) for running out on his show and $50 million, this film reminds us why he was offered that money in the first place. Whether his next move is to return to his popular Comedy Central show or to do some other project, this film really made me want to see whatever he does next.

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