Meet the Blacks

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There is far more stimulation in contemplating what an odd mess “Meet the Blacks” is than there is in watching it. Trust me, I’ve done both. The movie itself is a careless, mostly unfunny mix of slapstick, insults, racial humor, toothless satire, and semi-horror, all set in a world where the Purge is real. So is “Meet the Blacks” a spoof of “The Purge”? It sometimes thinks it is, but no, not really. It’s more like “The Purge” fan fiction.

Oh, and it starts with executive producer Snoop Dogg, in whiteface, warning his fellow whites to stay safe during the Purge. Weird, right?

Carl Black (Mike Epps) is a Chicago criminal who steals enough money from his newly imprisoned partner to move his family — Latina second wife Lorena (Zulay Henao), teenage daughter Allie (Bresha Webb), son Carl Jr. (Alex Henderson), and shiftless cousin Cronut (Lil Duval) — to a gated community in Beverly Hills. Now, the Black family is the first black family to live in this neighborhood, so they are on a collision course with wackiness, racism, etc.

Then the Purge begins. For the uninitiated, the Purge is an annual 12-hour period during which all crime is legal. Carl thought there wouldn’t be any Purging in fancy Beverly Hills, and the movie spends several minutes on his sputtering and fuming when he finds out he was wrong. There is also a scene where Carl Jr. explains to his dad what the Purge is, even though his dad obviously already knows what it is because he has been complaining about it. There’s also a scene where Lorena says, “I’m gonna go check on the kids” immediately after the kids have left the room. Like, you can still see them going up the stairs. The story needed Lorena to exit the scene, and “I’m gonna go check on the kids” was the only thing the writers could come up with.

Sorry, I’ve gotten ahead of myself, pointing out random dumb mistakes before I’ve finished explaining what the movie is about. Disappointingly, it follows the basic structure of “The Purge” (including the teen daughter’s secret boyfriend being a factor) without really spoofing it, half-heartedly soaking it in stale gags, clunky writing, and amateurish performances. The tone is all over the place, and even seems to be going for actual thrills in a few scenes — a gross miscalculation.

What would “The Purge” be like if it were about black people? Screenwriters Nicole DeMasi and Deon Taylor (who also directed) seem to have begun with that question, then got stuck. The best they could come up with: the Blacks are tormented not just by would-be murderers but by people they owe money to (including a children’s party clown played by violent rapist Mike Tyson). Mike Epps scores a few chuckles as the cranky dad, but the fact that he constantly lies to his wife and everyone else undercuts his “concerned patriarch” act. He’s a dishonest man and a bad husband and father. There might have been some pleasure in seeing him emerge victorious if the movie 1) acknowledged his badness and/or 2) were funny. But it doesn’t and it isn’t, and here we are.

D+ (1 hr., 30 min.; R, pervasive harsh profanity and vulgarity, some sexuality, some violence.)