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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Music > Comedy > Hip Hop > Dave Chappelle's Block Party - Unrated

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party – Unrated


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Film: B-



Michel Gondry is one of the most creative directors around, as especially expressed in his work through Music Videos and TV commercials.  With an exceptional visual sense, he has made a name for himself on that, with a narrative feature film or two.  Dave Chappelle is one of the hottest comedians alive, showing much class and dignity by walking away from $50 Million to continue his popular Chappelle’s Show TV series (reviewed elsewhere on this site) because he found it becoming too exploitive and demeaning.  Fresh from all the controversy, he teams up with Gondry for what amounts to Gondry’s first part-concert film with Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.


The first half of the film involves his revisiting of his hometown and inviting all his friends and neighbors from the past to a black party without telling them who will be there.  Not that this will matter to many of the invitees because they either will go blindly because they like Dave or be too old to know Jill Scott, Mos Def, The Fugees, Kanye West or their importance in music and the arts today.  It is comical to see their reactions and the interestingly awkward but charming moments throughout.


Most important is that the film is a triumph against the very thing Comedy Central was trying to do to Chappelle: use a black man to cause more racial strife and idiocy than do something innovative, groundbreaking and even positive; in part by twisting the ground he was breaking on the show to begin with.  As we watch, we see scenes like something out of 1970s cinema, especially documentary, Rockumentary and counter-culture cinema:  people of all walks of life, races, socio-economic classes and other cultural differences getting along just fine.  You’d think the 1980s never happened until you realize how the media had racism re-mediated into it.  Subtlety, the film deconstructs worst-case-scenario expectations as no one fights each other or even gets killed (!) as the brainwashing is slowly melted away.


Of course, there are those critics who would argue that Chappelle is an “exotic” star figure, but the film clearly spells out that it is not that simple for him, in part because of his down-to-earth approach and also because he is a comedian with an honesty that more than proves (along with the Comedy Central fiasco) that he never sold out.  Thus, when the concert moments take place, they have a power and impact like that of great Soul concert films like Soul To Soul and Wattstax.  Those expecting a big screen version of everything Chappelle has done before will love seeing something different in his sudden wit at every turn, while Gondry continues to be one of the most important forces in music film anywhere.  I hope they work together again soon and see what next different, creative, interesting project they come up with next.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is slightly dark and that has to do with the on-the-scene nature of the shoot, which also varies throughout as Gondry follows Chappelle all over the place.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is decent, but with all the Hip Hop and solid audio fidelity, a DTS option would have been great.  Extras include a piece on the soundtrack, a making of featurette and second featurette about Ohio.  The latter two further extend what Gondry and Chappelle pull off here.  Even if you are not a Soul or Hip Hop fan, the film makes for very entertaining viewing.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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