The premise is simple and the story isn’t perfect but, it’s the ride from beginning to end that will surprise you and leave you in stitches. However, as is the case with many contemporary African-American based comedies the laughs throughout the new film Lottery Ticket can’t entirely make up for what’s flawed.
The dictionary definition of a comedy is this, “a play, movie, etc., of light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending.” I’d like to extend that definition to include, “that is only possible to accept if one suspends all rational belief to accept the sometimes unfathomable circumstances presented.” Comedy films at their best make the viewer forget what was going on before they entered the theater, and if they’re lucky leave with a stomach ache from laughing so hard.
When I go to contemporary African-American comedies I laugh but I don’t always leave the theater wanting more. This is partly due to the fact that many are mired in and rely on stereotypes of the downtrodden and ignorant black person. We as a community are more than that. While I get that comedy often stretches reality I don’t believe it has to embrace crude caricatures that have been attributed to a people.
WATCH ICE CUBE DISCUSS ‘LOTTERY TICKET’ ON ‘THE TODAY SHOW’:
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My favorite comedy with an African-American cast to this day remains the Eddie Murphy vehicle, Coming to America. Sure, there are stereotypes of Africans and some stereotypical urban characters in the film. However that never becomes a major theme in the film. Instead it’s about an African prince who comes to America, looking for love and finds it. Did I mention he’s a prince?
And the numbers don’t lie. Domestically the film earned $128,152,301.00. When you add in foreign receipts the worldwide gross amounts to $288,752,301.00. That means the story was universal, the actors were good and bankable and it had a message we could all relate to across the board.
At it’s base people will be able to relate to Bow Wow’s character of Kevin Carson in Lottery Ticket. It’s about a young man who wins the lottery and tries to stay alive and out of trouble until he can cash the ticket. And you see that he’s a good person who is trying to do the right thing. As Bow Wow himself puts it, “For the most part he’s a very mannerable, respectful and trustworthy young man.”
Hilarity ensues as he tries to accomplish this with no good people after him every step of the way. The cast is rounded out with Loretta Devine as his grandmother, and Ice Cube who also serves as executive producer and plays a smaller role. Charlie Murphy, Bill Bellamy and Mike Epps bring a few laughs to the film. When I spoke to Bow Wow from the set of his next movie about keeping a straight face he said, “It’s hard you know when you got to look at Charlie Murphy and Mike Epps in the face and they’re telling jokes.”
Another positive quality about the film is that there isn’t a performance that is too broad or doesn’t ring true. As an up and coming actor Bow Wow does a pretty good job and he’s driven when it comes to his career as he plans to be the next Will Smith. When I asked him how he’ll accomplish this he said, “I think the best way for me to do that is to dedicate myself and be humble at the same time, just give it my all and practice and make sure that I’m on my j-o-b.”
However, the film does suffer from some bad cliches. It’s not even that the main character and his grandmother live in a housing project because that is the reality for many people. It’s the fact that this is a talented young man who can’t catch a break and must rely on an almost impossible outcome to change his life; or that the pretty young woman feels that her ticket out of the PJ’s is her body; or the characters who seem to sit around all day doing virtually nothing and pull out a gun whenever it fits the occasion. These moments almost bury the film.
Still Lottery Ticket avoids completely drowning in the cliches because what it serves up is that there’s a constant message of giving back to the community, and that having money is great but what you do with it really makes the difference. It might seem like a small gesture but it’s a theme that comes up pretty early, remains throughout and pays off in the end.
The flaws withstanding there are some bright spots in Lottery Ticket and you will laugh. It’s just a matter of how much.