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I'm a longtime contributor to MTV, Billboard, Alternative Press and MovieWeb. I've worked as on-air reporter, host, writer and producer for MTV, MSNBC and E!. I have provided opinion and commentary to programs on VH1, IFC, G4, Fuse, Current and Oxygen. I have written for Huffington Post, Premiere, OC Weekly, SFGate.com, NextMovie.com, MTV's television and movie blogs and other publications. I am the founder of Superhero Productions, providing broadcast, online and aftermarket content for a number of clients including Lionsgate, Sony and Warner Bros. I personally handle artist management for a handful of bands. "Ryan Downey has established a history of breaking some good scoops in the last few years, and you could certainly do worse than bookmark [him] to check in on." -- Ain't It Cool

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Movie Review: "Lottery Ticket"

Directed By: Erik White
Starring: Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Loretta Devine, Naturi Naughton, Teairra Mari, Mike Epps, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Charlie Murphy, Keith David, Terry Crews, Ice Cube
1 Star

What the crap happened to Ice Cube?

The man whose classic contributions to pop culture include Straight Outta Compton, Death Certificate, "Boyz N' The Hood" and "Friday" co-stars in the lame-brained, boring as hell, stereotype-stuffed "comedy" called "Lottery Ticket," featuring an "all star cast led by Bow Wow" (that's from the press notes), produced by his own Cube Vision production company.

Where did his creative slide begin?"Are We There Yet?" "Torque"? "XXX2"?

Perhaps it was "We Be Clubbin'," the pandering catchphrase track that elicited disbelief from all of us who laughed and cheered when the once defiantly anti-pop icon rapped "you can 'New Jack Swing' on my nuts!" just a few years before. This guy was in "Three Kings," remember?

I don't have any problem with Ice Cube moving forward, spreading his wings, making family films. Heck, "Barbershop" wasn't bad. In fact, it's a perfect example of exactly how to hit the mainstream without sacrificing substance, style or quality. I don't need Ice Cube to be angry all of the time, because that's not realistic. Railing against Cube in a comedy is like complaining about Metallica cutting their hair. Make all of the kid-friendly flicks you want, Cube. JUST MAKE THEM GOOD.

"Lottery Ticket" is not good. "Lottery Ticket" is awful.

Bow Wow plays a teenage Foot Locker employee who buys a lottery ticket worth over $300 million dollars. The problem is that it's Fourth of July weekend, so he can't collect until the following Tuesday (is that how it really works?). Wacky hijinks ensue as the neighborhood learns of his new found riches, as wacky hijinks often do.

It's actually a pretty strong premise for comedy or drama, but the movie doesn't deliver on either level. Visually, music video director Erik White knows how to stage a neighborhood barbeque or show off some Nikes with flair, but the script just sucks.

Maybe the rapper formerly known as "Lil" can act, but since his one-note character doesn't require him to do anything more than react to other people, who knows?

Bow Wow is surrounded by his wise-cracking best friend (Brandon T. Jackson), his kindly Bible thumping grandmother (Loretta Devine), the girl next door he's somehow never thought about romantically (Naturi Naughton), the gold digging hot chick (Teairra Mari) he lusts after, the neighborhood preacher (Mike Epps) who waves a pistol around and loves big houses / big-booty girls, a neighborhood bully (Gbenga Akinnagbe) twice as frightening as Deebo from "Friday" but somehow absolutely boring, the neighborhood gossip (a completely wasted Charlie Murphy, who doesn't say or do anything funny), the neighborhood crime boss (Keith David), the neighborhood crime boss' right-hand man with a heart-of-gold (Terry Crews) and a reclusive old man (Ice Cube).

Somebody should tell Ice Cube that dying his beard gray and speaking with a spotty Southern accent isn't "acting." (I'm not volunteering to tell him that, of course).

There's a scene in "Lottery Ticket" where Bow Wow's friends accompany him to a fancy restaurant and have no idea how to behave, looking confused by the food and generally causing a ruckus. It instantly made me think of Bill O'Reilly. How could Cube allow that scene? It makes "Soul Plane" look progressive. And let's not get into Jackson's reaction to a hot girl.

Back in 1997, Ice Cube rapped alongside Public Enemy on "Burn Hollywood Burn," spitting lines with venom, lines like, "Let's check out a flick that exploits the color," with biting sarcasm. "Many intelligent black men seemed to look uncivilized when on the screen," Big Daddy Kane added.

The comedy in "Lottery Ticket" isn't funny, the social commentary isn't coherent (wearing a suit, letting your friends ride in a helicopter and starting a vague foundation is how you uplift the community, apparently). There is nothing that feels real, interesting, urgent or engaging about this movie whatsoever.

My advice to moviegoers would be to avoid "Lottery Ticket" the way Amerika's Most Wanted should have avoided it himself. I know the guy who wrote those songs and who burst into Hollywood with quality fare like "Boyz N The Hood" and the first "Friday" is still capable of greatness, but he's clearly being lazy. C'mon, Cube!

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