Film Review: Chappelle shows

By Logan Niehaus

Modesty is a rare trait in today’s world and is even rarer when it comes to celebrities. Some stars attempt to play the modesty card through fake attempts and poor intentions and end up looking like pretentious, uptight, nasal discharges of insecurity. One individual sidesteps these mishaps. Displaying a much softer side when it comes to modesty is Dave Chappelle. The in-your-face actor, comedian and overall good guy has created a stir through his sketch comedy, laugh-out-loud stand-up and need to challenge social and political barriers. After a short hiatus, Chappelle is back with his documentary of a block party he threw in the summer of 2004, appropriately titled Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.

Just picture it, a whole city block barricaded off for a full day with some of the world’s greatest hip-hop, rap, soul, and comedic artists. The documentary follows the days leading up to and including the concert in the Bronx. A modern-day Willy Wonka, Chappelle visits his home town and several areas holding special meaning to him during his childhood and growth as a performer to distribute several golden tickets to the performance. The invites, given out like penny candies at the local corner store, included transportation, admission to the show and a hotel.

A beautifully shot and structured film, blending both the energy of music and comedy, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party brings people together from all kinds of backgrounds and races. Although some might be scared off by the overwhelming amount of rap music, the artists involved only help build upon an already entertaining collection.

Notable performers include the talented likes of Mos Def, Dead Prez, Common, Erykah Badu, Kanye West and Talib Kweli. The most rewarding part of the performances comes from an unexpected reunion of the Fugees, a group torn apart by money and egos years ago. The soulful trio makes a memorable return in the film, giving a performance sure to result in goosebumps and displaying why the Fugees were so successful to begin with.

In addition to the Fugees’ blissful performance, Kanye’s symphony-backed “Jesus Walks” and Talib Kweli and Mos Def’s blow-out duet stand out, though every aspect of the concert works hand in hand with the rest of the film. Chappelle’s wit and presence add to the film, sparking laughter at every turn. Though the real stars are the artists, the movie shows how much of Chappelle’s humour stems simply from being himself and not some act he puts on.

Whether it’s rumours of nervous breakdowns, racially-charged skits or a huge block party in the Bronx, Dave Chappelle pushes today’s entertainment envelope. His block party allows us a different view into the lifestyle, generosity, and behaviour of a man many only know for his work as Rick James in a famous skit. What many don’t see are the endless charities he contributes to and the respect he has for his fans. The most inspiring part of the film is the softer, yet still extremely hilarious side of Dave Chappelle we see. It’s a shame this kind of celebrity is the exception, not the rule.

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