Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mo'Nique, Julian Walker, Kevin Allesee, Isaiah Washington, Terrell Tilford, Gary LeRoi Gray, Torrey Laamar, Wanita 'D. Woods' Woodgett, Nikki Jane, Lindsay Seim, Nicole Lovince
Written by: Rikki Beadle Blair, Patrik-Ian Polk
Directed by: Patrik-Ian Polk
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drug use - all involving teens
Running Time: 99
Date: 04/24/2015

Blackbird (2015)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Gay Play

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Seventeen year-old Randy Rousseau (Julian Walker) is a Christian who sings in his church choir, but can't stop having sexy dreams about boys. His friends decide to put on a gay, musical Romeo & Juliet for the school play, with Randy as Romeo, and his friends begin to catch on as he sings longingly to his male co-star. Things get more complicated when Randy auditions for a student film, requiring him to play a gay character; his gay, white co-star falls in love with him and begins flirting. Meanwhile, Randy's mother (Mo'Nique) has gone nearly mad with grief over her missing daughter, Randy's sister. Randy keeps praying for guidance, but what will happen when his mother discovers his true passions?

One of the characters in Blackbird talks to Randy about wanting to make movies about truth like John Cassavetes did; Randy is even seen reading a book about Cassavetes. Unfortunately, director and co-writer Patrik-Ian Polk shows no familiarity with that legendary director's work, and Blackbird is as far from truth as it can possibly be. It's more like an after-school special.

The drama here is supremely awkward, forced, and amateurish, from the first moments of badly lip-synced singing to the final moments of unearned, coincidental triumphs. Characters never seem to connect, and can never get beyond the feeling that they are merely reading dialogue at each other. Not even an Oscar-winner like Mo'Nique or a powerful actor like Isaiah Washington can rise above their pedestrian moments. The movie is very earnest and might have been helpful for young, struggling teens like Randy — if not for the fact that it achieved an "R" rating for strong language and drug and sex-related content.

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