Dave Chapelle's Block Party

"Extraordinary"

Dave Chapelle's Block Party Review


Imagine you were a marginally successful comedian, one who had spent 10 years touring clubs and taking bit movie parts for a living. Suddenly, you got a big break and hit a grand slam, catapulting your name to household status with both mainstream appeal and real street cred. What would you do with this fame, fortune, and success?

If you had any sense of decency, you'd throw yourself a big party.

On a rainy day in the summer of 2004, fresh off his big payday from Comedy Central, Dave Chappelle cordoned off a street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and assembled "the concert I always wanted to see," featuring all the hip-hop acts your friends from grad school like.

The free show, held at a location kept secret until the last minute, may be smaller than, say, Garth Brooks in Central Park, but it springs alive from the flesh of its community. Common, Grammy favorite Kanye West, live band hip-hop pioneers the Roots, radicals Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, a reunited Blackstar (Mos Def and Talib Kweli), and an unthinkably reunited Fugees (Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras) join the festivities with energizing songs of love and justice.

In the able hands of director Michel Gondry, who was crafting bitchin' videos for Bjork, Beck, Radiohead, and the White Stripes before he made Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is no MTV Awards Show. Its relentlessly entertaining 100 minutes jump among clips of the show, the rehearsals and artist interviews, and Chappelle interacting with the denizens of Brooklyn and his Ohio hometown. Shot by multiple documentary units, the film feels simultaneously professional and DIY, commencing with the first shot, in which two older men try to restart a car that's broken down in front of Chappelle's opening credits location.

While Block Party reveals little of the man who walked away from that big Comedy Central paycheck, Chappelle is a generous and engaging party host. He wanders around his childhood hometown in Ohio distributing "golden tickets" to the show - including a long bus ride - to everyone he meets, from a pair of charming golfing teens to a middle-aged white lady at the local market who has no idea "what to wear to a rap party." He also runs into the marching band from historically black Central State University, which literally jump for joy when their director informs them they'll be traveling to NYC to play "Jesus Walks" with Kanye.

The concert itself reflects its primary sponsor in its fun and unpretentiousness. Chappelle is, unsurprisingly for those who've seen his show, the anti-P. Diddy. No dress code, no Cristal, the only requirement is fun. And the music footage - rappers and singers backed by a house band starring the Roots' tireless ?uestlove on the skins - is uniformly explosive, from the aforementioned Kanye performance, to Dead Prez's rage-bomb "Turn Off the Radio," to Scott and Badu's abstract duet on "You Know That You Got Me," to Hill's glassy-eyed rendition of "Killing Me Softly," to the triumphant return of Big Daddy Kane with the Roots. Anyone with a microgram of feel for real hip-hop - the brand created by men and women of strong minds and pure souls, the brand devoid of guns and booty and platinum grills - may find themselves irresistibly drawn to a record store when the credits roll, if only for the soundtrack.

And Chappelle's jokey breaks between sets - in which he goofs around with the band, does a dirty Borscht Belt-style bit with Mos Def on drums, and freestyle battles an audience member who looks like Mr. T - are hilarious enough to make you forget about how much that popcorn and Coke cost.

But it's the warm and mature offstage scenes that give Block Party its sense of purpose. The free show transcends mere entertainment, becoming a celebration of a misunderstood culture, and a platform for acts of spiritual love for community. Late in the movie, Wyclef Jean beefs with some of the marching band, playing a deeply moving segment from "(If I Was the) President" on keyboards, and urging the kids rise above easy blame and self-pity. It's a far cry from the real Mr. T telling kids to drink their milk, and brief as it is, you can't help but sense that Wyclef has touched the band geeks for the better.

With Comedy Central in the process of repackaging the last few sketches that Chappelle filmed as "Season 3 of Chappelle's Show," you'd be forgiven for assuming a movie titled Dave Chappelle's Block Party smelled like the worst kind of Hollywood opportunism. But it's the opposite, a winningly entertaining labor of love that also happens to be A+ work by everyone involved. As the concert ends, Chappelle confides with the day care center principal, "This is the best thing I've done in my career."

Hell, yes.

I'm Dave Chappelle, and this is my party. Bitch.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Musical

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Dave Chapelle, ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.