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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Marci X (review)

The Quality of Marci

(Worst of 2003)

There’s evil, and then there’s Marci X. I can’t even begin to imagine how twisted must be the alternate universe that spawned this debacle — but as a start, it’s gotta feature lots of evil-Spock goatees and people wearing daggers on their belts and Shakespeare’s great speeches turned all harsh and mean. Only way to explain this movie. Yes, it must have fallen into our spacetime continuum from elsewhere, a Bad Place where Hollywood executives knife each other in the back for a percentage. No, I mean literally.

In that mirror universe, Marci X is, I’m sure, considered light comedy, fine for the kids. Here, to call this film “offensive” would be generous — a more blithe display of astonishingly clueless anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, and sheer bad taste has not been seen since probably ever. From what one must imagine was the high-concept pitch of some screenwriter who’d sold his soul to Satan — “A Jewish American Princess and a hardcore rapper teach each other the true meaning of the First Amendment! It’s Romeo and Juliet meets The People Vs. Larry Flynt!” — to the actual execution, which I do not recommend anyone subject him- or herself to, this may well be the most misbegotten film I’ve seen so far this year… and that’s including Kangaroo Jack.

Lisa Kudrow’s (Analyze That) Marci Feld is a ghastly caricature of a New York Jewish socialite: spoiled, stupid, shallow — worse, she lives in a world in which such characteristics are celebrated. Her father, Ben Feld (Richard Benjamin, who also directed, and in that harsh alternate universe, his work here would be a hanging offense), is just as stupid. A mogul on a global scale — think Donald Trump without the oozing-sore quality, Bill Gates without the magnetic charisma — he has no idea that his company owns a highly controversial hip-hop record label that releases the music of the highly controversial Dr. S (Damon Wayons). Marci takes it on herself to reign in Dr. S when his antics — and those of the stick-up-their-butt right-wingers looking to boycott Feldco over Dr. S’s “music” — give Dad a coronary. Hilarity utterly fails to ensue.

Instead, it’s all cringe-inducing, and on an escalating scale — it starts out unbearable and just gets worse. All the usual bigoted crap — white people are uptight, black people are more real, gays are acceptable only as objects of ridicule — is taken to a degree of depravity heretofore unknown to man, a slash-and-burn stereotyping of entire races and religions. Marci wins over an audience of diehard Dr. S fans by rapping about the “power” in her “purse” — a response to Dr. S’s romantic little ditty “The Power in My Pants” — which at first makes you want to slink away under your seat as you think she’s referring to her credit cards — cuz, you know, all Jews are obsessed with money — but no, she’s singing about the power of her highly fashionable purse. She rattles of a long list of designers from whom a single handbag costs more than what any given individual member of this Harlem audience likely makes in a month, and this is what wins them over, convinces them that she, Marci, is “real.” The women in this audience shout out what constitutes the sad little powers in their purses — Kleenex, lipsticks, pencils — and yet they don’t rip Marci limb from limb for suggesting that all a gal needs to succeed is a $5,000 crocodile clutch.

Marci may escape unscathed, but Kudrow doesn’t — she looks increasingly uncomfortable as things go from “oh my god I can’t believe I just saw that” to “oh my god I can’t believe I just saw THAT,” as well she should, and you have to wonder what possessed someone of her comic talents to sink to such an unfunny low. People, one imagines, are being fired somewhere. Wayans doesn’t fare much better, inexplicably playing what is supposed to be a supermacho rapper with his typical lisping mince. Christine Baranski (Chicago) as the Tipper Gore-esque Senator Mary Ellen Spinkle, will survive — after all, the suggestion that even she secretly enjoys Dr. S’s work isn’t her fault, but that of screenwriter Paul Rudnick (In and Out), may God have mercy on his soul.

The really ironic thing is that for all Marci X is meant to be a satire on censorship, it might instead lead even the most devoted fan of the First Amendment to admit that some things simply are not fit for human consumption.


MPAA: rated R for language and sexual content

viewed at a public multiplex screening

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