White Chicks

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White Chicks

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Runtime: 105 minutes
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans

To protect a pair of wealthy heiresses (clearly modeled after the Hilton sisters), two black, New York-born FBI agents travel in whiteface heiress drag to spend a weekend at the Hamptons. That's a pretty ridiculous idea for a movie, but it's not without potential. Done right, it could have commented on some of the weird ways race and class intersect in contemporary society. There's even a moment in White Chicks that seems to get this: Listening to the radio, the two agents shock their unsuspecting friends by unconsciously singing along to what their companions will only call "the N word," a word that troubles the moneyed WASPs deeply and the agents not at all.

The biggest problem is that the burden of making it work rests on the shoulders of director Keenen Ivory Wayans and his brothers Marlon and Shawn. The Wayans family has been inconsistent ever since I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, but since discovering how easy it was to make money out of scatological jokes and broad racial humor with Scary Movie, they've been less reliable than ever. (Although, to be fair, Marlon has taken the time to prove himself a deft performer in non-Wayans vehicles like Requiem For A Dream and The Ladykillers.) White Chicks plays to their worst instincts: When one character announces early on how much gastric distress dairy products cause him, it doesn't take a super-genius to know what's coming.

Stupidity has worked for the Wayans brothers in the past, but White Chicks will likely test the patience of even their most loyal fans. Much of the film hinges on the heiresses' close friends not recognizing the disguised Wayans brothers, even though they not only don't look like white women; they also look as if they've wandered off the set of Dawn Of The Dead. It wouldn't matter if it were funny, but the Wayans brothers' notion of how women walk and talk would get them booed out of even the least-discriminating drag bar. They seem unable, or maybe just unwilling, to get in touch with their feminine sides.

That might also explain all those gratuitous fight scenes that pop up out of nowhere to spoil what little momentum the film develops. It might even explain the tacked-on romantic subplot involving a pretty reporter. But it doesn't explain White Chicks itself. Why make a movie with such a ridiculous premise, and then refuse to commit to it? It's as if they were rightfully ashamed of their own bad idea.