Lots of movies get green-lighted in Hollywood that turn out badly, but usually you can at least perceive why someone might have thought that the project had some small chance of working to begin with. Every once in a while, though, a picture appears that’s so jaw-droppingly awful from beginning to end that its very existence is an affront–and how it came to be made at considerable expense is simply unfathomable. “Marci X” falls into this select company; it’s even more misguided than last year’s mega-bomb “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.” It’s truly hard to believe that Paul Rudnick wrote anything that resembled this.
Back in 1996 Daman Wayans starred in “The Great White Hype,” a clumsy satire of racial divides in the boxing game. Now he appears in this attempted satire/romantic comedy about white-and-black on the contemporary music scene, and the result is more painful still. “Marci X” is an embarrassment to all involved, including the audience–a clash of cultures story that plays as a clash of stereotypes instead, so clueless about its subject that it’s like a being force-fed a 10-CD retrospective of Vanilla Ice’s greatest hits. It’s no wonder its release has been delayed so long. What’s surprising it that it hasn’t been kept under wraps indefinitely.
Lisa Kudrow plays Marci, a wealthy New York socialite whose millionaire father falls ill when a right-wing senator attacks him for owning a record label that features on its roster Dr. S (Wayans), a hip-hopper with a propensity for spouting lyrics not likely to endear him to the Tipper Gore-Bill Bennett crowd. For nearly ninety minutes (in this severely cut version of what must have been a longer movie–necessary connections are often simply lacking), she tries to deal with all the bad press by persuading him to take a more accommodating attitude; and in the process, though it’s frankly inexplicable from both sides, the two fall in love.
What’s truly astonishing about “Marci X” is the utter contempt with which it treats all its characters, and thereby its cast. It’s predictable that the senator would be portrayed as an unprincipled shrew–such is the PC view, of course–and that Christine Baranski emerges from the role without a shred of dignity. But nobody else–not even the people you’re apparently supposed to like–fares much better. Marci is just a standard-issue Jewish princess, and Kudrow plays her robotically, in a way that leaves her neither attractive nor remotely sympathetic. Wayans comes off even worse, saddled with the sort of jive stereotype that seems woefully past its expiration date. The role might have worked as a four-minute sketch on “In Living Color” years ago, but stretched to an hour and a half it’s absolutely insufferable Hip-hop culture is completely defanged here to render it palatable to a white audience that will never show up anyway, and as part of the process Dr. S. is presented as a thoroughly unthreatening, cuddly African-American artifact that’s necessarily irresistible to women (especially, it appears, to those elderly white ones inevitably presented in pictures like this as uncontrollably randy). (The weird voice that Wayans uses for the rapper takes him even further from the realm of reality.) Of course, it’s impossible to believe that any mutual attraction could ever arise between these two cardboard figures, and even more impossible to care. Richard Benjamin appears as Marci’s father, looking suitably cadaverous. But he’s also directed the movie at a geriatric tempo that suggests his pacemaker might actually need recharging. The production side of things, on the other hand, is fairly praiseworthy: from a technical standpoint “Marci X” looks spiffy–an example of attractive packaging within which tawdry contents lurk.
The whole of this movie is atrocious, but the most terrible parts are definitely the musical numbers. There are several of these for both Wayans and Kudrow, as well as couple of hideous routines for a group called Boys ’R Us (just one opportunity for the script to engage in some really puerile gay-based humor). But the makers save the absolute worst for last. An elaborate song-and-dance that precedes the final crawls, giving “cute” information on the future of the various characters, is certainly the nadir of this gruesomely bad movie, and will send viewers fleeing up the aisles–faster than Seabiscuit.