A scene from 'The Original Kings of Comedy'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 117 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, August 18, 2000
Directed by Spike Lee

Starring Steve Harvey, Cedric "The Entertainer," D.L. Hughley & Bernie Mac


No loss t othe small screen. Never was theater material to begin with.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 2.27.2001


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Forgettable comedy concert film gets in some laughs, but lacks any of its director's distinctive panache

By Rob Blackwelder

Filmed by Spike Lee at a sold-out, stadium-sized comedy concert in Charlotte, N.C., "The Original Kings of Comedy" is a snapshot of Black humor in the year 2000.

It features standup sensations (and sitcom stars) Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric "The Entertainer" and Bernie Mac waxing jocular and lewd about the usual array of comedy targets from jobs to church to sex (and more sex and more sex) to kids to the differences between what white folk do and what black folk do in various situations -- getting fired, attending weddings, Halloween, etc.

Is it funny? Sure -- although not as funny as the comics themselves seem to think it is. Many of the gags have a short shelf life and will be badly outdated in a matter of months. Harvey, for example, spends five minutes of his opening volley on some scandal involving some Caroline Panthers, and I didn't have a clue whom he was talking about.

But even though "Kings of Comedy" bats better than .500 for laughs, with a groundbreaking director like Lee behind the camera, I expected more. Standard whooping-audience reaction shots and staged behind-the-scenes footage are way below Spike's abilities. And I certainly didn't expect to see any kind of Spike Lee project succumb to the kind of blatant continuity problems and other technical follies that plague this picture. It's distractingly obvious when he's cut out or rearranged parts of a comic's routine.

Sure, that stuff isn't exactly of paramount concern in a comedy concert flick. But what I'm saying is that I don't see any reason why "Kings of Comedy" has been released in theaters. There's nothing whatsoever contained within to distinguish this movie from a middling HBO comedy special and there's definitely nothing unique enough about it to earn that distinctive, trademarked title card, "A Spike Lee Joint."

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