Combustible Celluloid
With: David Arquette, Snoop Dogg, Tasie Lawrence, Lou Beatty Jr., Nathan Dana, Anthony McKinley, Valeria Vallejos, Big Jah, Baron Davis, Megan Sousa
Written by: Pamela Azmi-Andrew, Baron Davis, Carl Reid
Directed by: Baron Davis, Steven V. Vasquez Jr., Carl Reid
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, drug use, and sexual references
Running Time: 109
Date: 06/11/2021

Domino: Battle of the Bones (2021)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Doggy Tiles

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Wobbling lazily between good-hearted fun and lowbrow humor filled with long, dead stretches, this competition-based comedy might have been charming enough to succeed with just a little more care.

"Pimpfessor Dr. DMF, esq." (Snoop Dogg) briefly introduces the game of dominoes to viewers. Then, young, white Andy (Nathan Dana) is unceremoniously dropped with his Black grandfather Gerald (Lou Beatty Jr.), when his mixed-race parents take off for Cabo. Andy plays dominoes on a phone app while Gerald plays the real thing; he tries to explain to the boy that there's more to the game than just the math.

Meanwhile, the broke, divorced Walter (David Arquette) makes one last play for success with a domino competition to be held in a church in Compton. Entrants include formerly incarcerated Big Slams (Big Jah); Camila (Valeria Vallejos), who hopes to prove something to her bullying cousin and unsupportive father; and Tenspeed (Anthony McKinley), a flashy, fast-talking, roller-skating, cocaine-using domino champ. Many things go awry, but a winner will eventually be declared!

Perhaps the main problem with Domino: Battle of the Bones is that it has too many cooks, with no less than three credited directors, and that the movie goes on far too long (109 minutes), and too many unfunny jokes and too many pointless scenes allowed to remain intact. Certain ideas are repeated many times as if they're supposed to be funny — such as Walter's financial troubles and Tenspeed's cocaine use — even though they're simply not.

As the movie goes on, certain characters open up, adding a little sweetness. For example, Gerald and Andy begin to bond, and Camila and her father are finally able to open up to one another. And Snoop Dogg practically steals the entire movie in just a couple of scenes, seated at a desk (he probably shot all his scenes in an hour).

But too much of Domino: Battle of the Bones goes a little too far into stereotype, tastelessness, and humorlessness. Perhaps most disappointingly, despite Snoop's quick domino primer, the movie doesn't seem to care at all about the game itself, barely showing the games in play, and not providing enough information to generate any suspense. The movie could have been a win, but instead it topples.

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