My Rating: 3 stars
I was really looking forward to this movie. The trailer made it look so awesome—a modern-day retelling of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata set in inner-city Chicago. And it’s kind of a musical! How can you go wrong with that? The classic story of Lysistrata has everything you could want. Sex and violence. Women trying to control their men by withholding their favors until the men stop warring. And, then we get all the benefits of a modern setting. Awesome, orange and purple street wear. A couple of musical numbers. Nick Cannon with his shirt off. Samuel L. Jackson playing the omniscient narrator, Dolomedes. He speaks in verse, and is answered by a chorus of determined, beautiful ladies and befuddled, pleading men. Now that’s comedy!
Everything about this concept seemed designed to appeal to me. And, the movie does start off amazingly. We’re introduced to all the characters. We get some music. And, the cinematography is so stylish. But, unfortunately it looks like director Spike Lee got a little too carried away, and ended up ruining the movie with a little too much meddling. I guess he’s never really been known for exercising restraint. That guy is just full of ideas! (Maybe too many ideas). The first act of this film is genuinely very strong. But, it seems like Lee just couldn’t stand cutting out any of his material or concepts. So he crammed all the leftover ideas into the last act, confusing it terribly. Sometimes less is more. The film goes off the rails about halfway through—around the time when the women take control of the Armory. So, the story shifts from being a smart, reinterpretation of classical literature into an unfollowably insane farce. I was a little disappointed.
Of course, I wasn’t disappointed enough to write off the film completely. I still really like what it’s trying to do. I love the setting. I love the music. I love that the film retains the classic structure of call and response between the narrator and chorus. I especially love the costumes. And, I’m always a sucker for “modern-day retellings.” So, I’m especially annoyed that the flawed direction ended up spoiling this for me. So, I really don’t know what to tell you. I don’t want to recommend it to you and have you angry at me when the movie turns completely bananas. But, I wouldn’t want for you not to see the movie at all. There’s so much to like. So, I guess I’ll just tell you not to get your hopes up. Approach this movie with caution. Give it a gander, but don’t work yourself up too much ahead of time. And, maybe you can avoid disappointment.