There's a long and frequently entertaining history of celebrities allowing their images to be deflated by playing themselves, or characters somewhat like them, in films and on TV. When it works, as on The Larry Sanders Show, everyone wins: The audience gets a good laugh, and the celebrity looks like a good sport who doesn't take him or herself too seriously. When it doesn't workas in Steven Seagal's frightening portrayal of himself in My Giant, or in this bizarre family film which originally aired on Showtimeit can just be sad. In The Right Connections, rapper-turned-cable-evangelist MC Hammer plays the semi-autobiographical part of a washed-up early-'90s hip-hop star with the unwieldy moniker Kik N Bak Flash. As the film opens, Flash experiences problems familiar to Hammer's life: No one buys his records anymore, making it difficult for him to support his lavish, baggy-pantsed lifestyle. A chance at spiritual and financial redemption soon arrives, however, in the form of well-scrubbed, sass-filled moppets who, after spying Hammer switching the price tags on some fancy clothes at the local mall, recruit him to help them win an amateur hip-hop contest. It's not the desire to find fame and fortune kicking the hard rhymes that motivates them, however, but the fact that the $5,000 prize just happens to be the exact amount needed to get their mother out of debt. With Hammer's help, they transform themselves from a bunch of talent-free, funk- and rhyme-deprived kids to a bunch of talent-free, funk- and rhyme-deprived kids capable of moving their bodies to a generic hip-hop beat. But will these white suburbanites win the love of a far funkier crowd and accept Hammer's valuable anti-premarital-sex, anti-bully messages, while keeping The Right Connections firmly in the territory of a bland sitcom? With veteran sitcom director Chuck Vinson (Sabrina The Teenage Witch) behind the camera, it's never much of a problem. Melissa Joan Hart makes an appearance as a no-nonsense cab driver. Her presence can be explained by the fact that she shares a last name with half the cast; a proper sense of the limits of familial loyalty may explain the brevity of her screen time.