Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Shaquille O'Neal, Francis Capra, Marshall Manesh
Release Date: July 17, 1996
Posting Date: October 06, 2008
As the Critic has made clear time and again in his reviews, sometimes Hollywood does things that are well beyond the realms of comprehension. Even in a cutthroat environment with high standards, sometimes a movie that has no right to exist will get produced with the completely thoughtless hope of making a quick buck.
I mean, there's this movie called Theodore Rex, and it follows the simple premise of Whoopi Goldberg fighting crime with a dinosaur. No, I didn't make that up. I couldn't possibly be able to, either. That movie actually exists, and the Critic has the review to prove it. If something like that can make it and investors are willing to plunk down to support it just for the vague impression that it'll make money, I can only imagine just how low some producers are willing to go.
In the case of this movie, we have a pitch that can only work as a commercial and not as any kind of feature film -- famous basketball player Shaquille O'Neal stars as a genie who serves an inner city kid. Oh, but it get better. You see, this genie can also rap.
Yeah, this sort of thing was an inexplicable trend in the 90s, the direct result of businessmen desperately hoping that they can instantly transfer the success from one medium to another, compatibility be damned!
This wasn't the only movie made starring a basketball player, and it wasn't even the only one the Critic reviewed. (Space Jam, anyone?) It may have been reasonably argued that giving this basketball star a movie would have been a decent idea, since Shaq got some good remarks for a supporting role he had a few years earlier in Blue Chips. But what we got was the idea backfiring right on lazy studio executives.
Beginning with that incredibly unlikely setup, everything about this movie is ripe for ripping. A lot of the movie consists of padding, and it really comes off as aggressive in that regard. Some of it is merely pseudo-comedy, with Shaq attempting to compensate for his downright stony performance by overdoing goofy, broad-stroked bits. But most of it incorporates the rapping, most of which involves how the bratty child he serves (played by Francis Capra, from Veronica Mars and A Bronx Tale) doesn't believe he's a genie, or vaguely/failing to connect to the plot of this kid attempting to reconnect with his estranged father, who works as a talent agent trafficking pirated music.
In fact, we get two rap numbers piled up rapid succession at one point, both weak attempts to get the story moving. First, during a bike ride around this tiny set piece, the most over-decorated plain set in the world. The genie shows off his powers and manages to prove he's special, and then comes in so the kid can wish for piles of candy and goodies in rhyme. However, the real kicker has got to be the big rap number at the father's nightclub when the genie is convinced to step up and do a freestyle bit that eventually involves the following line. I swear to god, this actually happens in the film.
"And if you girls are hungry, Let's Green Egg and Ham it!"And extra points to the Critic for his keen ability to take some...subtext and make a very funny, very un-PC running gag out of it! Sometimes we see the genie overdo it with the shtick, after the Critic realized how unsettling it was that he was following a child around and asking to "make wishes come true". And cue hilarious overacting and calling the cops in response to the genie waking up in bed with his young master, as if to solidify those suspicions! Certainly was a lot funnier than Shaq making a shower curtain appear out of nowhere.
In essence, this kind of review was exactly what one would want out of a review. All it composes is the perfect argument about the quality of the movie, deconstructing the whole experience to exploit the biggest, most glaring flaws in the funniest ways imaginable.
What else is there to say? Well, the kid's father at one point attempts to help a bushy-eyebrowed stereotype seize control of the genie. Who would have thought that such a placeholder villain would become the gang's taxi driver of choice on How I Met Your Mother? Helloooo!