Movie Reviews: Baby Boy




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     Columbia (2 hr. 8 min.)
     Picks up where BOYZ left off, following the daily life, relationships, and conflicts of a young man who's unemployed, living with his mother, with two love interests: his wife and his girlfriend.
     Tyrese Gibson, Snoop Doggy Dog, Ving Rhames, Adrienne Joi Johnson, and Taraji Henson.
Bottom Line:

Kam Williams

Last summer, John Singleton brought us a fairly explosive remake of Shaft. This summer, the young director looked to his own first film, Boyz N the Hood (1991), for inspiration. Baby Boy, is an alternately terrifying and touching slice of life straight outta' South Central.

The film stars the very busy singer/model/actor/MTVJ Tyrese Gibson in the title role as Jody, an unemployable, irresponsible but fertile playboy who won't grow up. Jody gets by with his street smarts and gets over with his irresistible charm and boyish good looks. This spoiled big baby still lives at home with his single mom but has a couple of babies of his own with two different girlfriends.

The peripatetic Tyrese made the perfect choice to play Jody because he was born and raised in Watts, and of late the multi-talented young man's career is skyrocketing, hitting on all cylinders. His first music CD went double-platinum and as a model for the Ford Modeling Agency, he has been featured in print ads for Tommy Hilfiger and Guess. On TV, he's starred in many a commercial, such as the award-winning Coca-Cola spot where he sings with headphones on while riding a bus.

Tyrese has also done guest shots on numerous sitcoms such as Moesha, Martin and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper. And he has even become one of the most popular VJs on MTV. Having achieved all of the above by the tender age of 22, this versatile Renaissance man now makes a most impressive feature film debut with Baby Boy.

Tyrese holds his own opposite a talented cast of seasoned vets. Ving Rhames, for example, gives a career performance as Melvin, an ex-con trying to scare Jody straight. Quite frankly, the Juilliard grad exhibits a range never before called upon. The same can be said about Adrienne Joi Johnson, a familiar face from such films as House Party, School Daze and Sister Act.

As Juanita, Jody's mom, Johnson effectively conveys all the frustrations of having to put up with a son who's a user and a loser. Even rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg does a convincing job as Rodney, a pistol-packing parolee who's after one of Jody's women. Perhaps the most challenging role falls to Taraji Henson, who co-starred in the most recent Murder She Wrote TV movie. As Yvette, the mother of one of Jody's babies, Henson portrays a strong woman who for some reason puts up with all of Jody's nonsense.

While Yvette is out working to support their child, Jody cruises in her car, hangs with his home boy, smokes pot and lavishes his attentions on other women in a never-ending babefest.

As ridiculously pathetic as the set-up might seem to an outside observer, somehow the film makes you believe that this scenario is not that far from fact. If that's the case, then Baby Boy offers a sobering explanation as to why so many girls in the ghetto are willing to make babies with absent, irresponsible sperm donors.

This is a film that is relentlessly raw, realistic and reverberating.



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