Crooklyn (1994)

"They talk funny down there." - Zelda Harris, who's ten-year-old
character has returned from an extended visit "down south"

Spike Lee goes back to Brooklyn in CROOKLYN, an amusing, fictionalized
look at the filmmaker's family life in the 1970's. No controversy here,
just a sprawling comedy/drama that's filled with moldy oldies, freaky
fashions, and, surprise!, clean city streets.

Meet the Carmichaels. Carolyn (Alfre Woodard) is the high-strung mother
who teaches school to pay the bills so her husband, Woody (Delory
Lindo), can work at reviving his stalled career as a jazz musician.
Mom's on the edge and can barely keep her (five) kids under wraps; they
scream and shout about everything from watching SOUL TRAIN to eating

For the Carmichaels, life on "the stoop" has both good days and bad. One
day they're bickering with their bizarre next-door neighbor (David
Patrick Kelly), the next they're all crying 'cause Daddy's left home.
But CROOKLYN, like youth, is relatively upbeat and, with one exception,
nothing terrible ever befalls the family. Even after an experiment in
shoplifting by oldest child and only girl Troy (played by Zelda Harris,
who is the *real* find in the film).

In fact, the biggest threat on the block is a pair of airplane-glue
sniffers!  Wow, what a difference a double-decade makes.

Well-intentioned it is, well-written it ain't. CROOKLYN is a narrative
train-wreck that splits the focus in too many directions. Mom and dad
and the kids and the neighbors and the merchants all compete for story
time and, simply, there's too much going on to know on what's really
going on.

(My vote for Most Glaring Non-sequitur is David Patrick Kelly, who has a
 split-second *second* role as a TV preacher with a wife who's wearing
 just a tad too much makeup. Sound familiar?)

But Spike's skills as a director are always fresh and CROOKLYN is
certainly a good watch.  That is, with the exception of his choice to
change the film's aspect ratio during a family visit "down south." But
the joke's on Lee-- his portrayal of The-South-as-a-another-planet is
*already* disorienting.

Pity the poor projectionist who has to field questions on *this* one!

Oddly, CROOKLYN doesn't do extremes. Lee keeps a tight reign on both
dour drama and high hilarity. The tears are few and the laughs are lazy.
He doesn't skimp on the music, though, and CROOKLYN features over three
dozen period pieces that are available, as the credits conveniently
note, on a two-volume soundtrack set.

Lest we forget the errs of our ways, credit the design departments for
filling this 70's Offend-A-Thon with orange walls and platform shoes and
more afros than you can shake a pick at. May we never paint furniture
olive again.

HUMANE NOTE: The film features some hilarious politically incorrect
animal abuse, including one gut-buster that's worth the price of matinee
admission. The gag even beats A FISH CALLED WANDA for croaked-canine

BOTTOM LINE: Spike Lee takes a break from controversy to spend a summer
in Brooklyn with this fictionalized look at family life in the 197O's.
Amusing to no end, CROOKLYN is less story than slice-of-life and the
change is relatively refreshing.

Grade: C+

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

Home   |   Recommended   |   Reviews   |   Views   |   Letters   |   Links   |   FAQ   |   Search!

Please report problems to
Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros