Eric D. Snider

King's Ransom

Did I miss the announcement of a contest to see who could make the worst film of 2005? Because that seems like a really stupid idea for a contest, since it's so easy to do. Yet a competition is the only explanation I can think of for all the D- and F-grade movies we've had so far: "Alone in the Dark," "Boogeyman," "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Down and Derby," "The Pacifier," "The Wedding Date" -- need I go on?

Add to this shameful lot "King's Ransom," a mean-spirited, unpleasant comedy about characters who are both nasty and stupid and who deserve every bad thing that happens to them. In fact, they deserve more. In fact, the only reason I would want this unbearable movie to be longer would be so I could see the characters punished in a more gruesome and graphic fashion. That they all come out of it alive is just one of the film's many disappointments.

Meet Malcolm King (Anthony Anderson), millionaire head of King Enterprises and a world-class jerk. He has a golddigging wife Renee (Kellita Smith), a bimbo girlfriend Peaches (Regina Hall) and a doting secretary (Loretta Devine). He is going through a painful divorce with the aforesaid golddigger, who wants half of his possessions, and he's just earned the ire of another woman, too: Angela (Nicole Ari Parker), his former vice president over marketing whom he has just replaced with the vastly incompetent Peaches.

Meanwhile, there is a loser named Corey (Jay Mohr) who lives in his grandmother's basement. (Grandma, I need hardly tell you, is a grotesque, deaf creature who farts in her sleep.) Corey's sister, fresh out of prison, wants $10,000 in a hurry. To that end, Corey comes up with the idea of kidnapping Malcolm King.

For some reason, Renee and Angela each come up with the same idea. Heck, Malcolm thinks of it, too, figuring if he fakes his kidnapping and pays a huge ransom to his "abductors," there won't be any money left for Renee to take in the divorce. So we have four people planning to kidnap Malcolm, and all of them will use the upcoming King Enterprises party as the place to do it.

Movies involving multiple kidnapping plots aimed at the same target are on shaky footing already, credibility-wise, and "King's Ransom" makes no attempt to ground any of this in reality. Even accepting that a farce is, by definition, implausible, I still have no patience for a movie that thinks unusual character quirks (someone stutters; someone else is a Jesus freak) are the same thing as comedy. The situations aren't funny, either, because they are so familiar and because nothing has been done to enliven them. The movie is all plot, no humor.

It is also no small matter that several characters are dumb -- not just dumb to us, but dumb in the world of the movie, too. One imbecile -- the ditzy blonde, the meathead jock, or what have you -- is usually all a movie needs. This one has at least four: Peaches, Angela's two co-conspirators, and Corey. Why so many? Because screenwriter Wayne Conley likes to have people misunderstand things in a comical fashion so that they can be angrily corrected by their betters. It gets old fast. Imagine a "Golden Girls" where ALL the characters are like Rose. Tiring, isn't it?

Malcolm is an insufferable bastard, his wife is spiteful, his girlfriend is clueless and slutty, all the women are conniving and/or moronic, all the men are opportunistic and/or horny. A farce should be, by definition, funny, and this trainwreck is not.

Grade: F

Rated PG-13, a lot of mild profanity, some sexuality, a lot of crude humor

1 hr., 35 min.

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