Review: ‘The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,’ starring Mike Epps and Katt Williams

June 19, 2021

by Carla Hay

Michael Blackson, Mike Epps, Zulay Henao, Bresha Webb and Lil Duval in “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2”

Directed by Deon Taylor

Culture Representation: Taking place in Atlanta, the horror comedy film “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” features a predominantly African American cast of characters (with a few white people and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A married father and his bachelor cousin are convinced that their new next-door neighbor is a vampire.

Culture Audience: “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching crass and unimaginative movies filled with derogatory name-calling of women and black people.

Shamea Morton, Katt Williams and Sisse Marie in “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

The good news is that “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” knows that it’s a silly and vulgar comedy. The bad news is that this movie fails miserably at being funny. This idiotic film also has rampant sexism and thinks that black people calling each other the “n” word is automatically supposed to make people laugh. It’s just a pathetic excuse for a comedy film.

“The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” is the follow-up to the 2016 horror comedy “Meet the Blacks,” both directed and co-written by Deon Taylor, a filmmaker who’s known for churning out low-quality movies with predominantly African American casts. In “Meet the Blacks,” which Taylor co-wrote with Nicole DeMasi, the Black family relocated from Chicago to Beverly Hills, California, where they encountered horror that was ripped off directly from 2013’s “The Purge,” a movie about a United States where all crime is legal, for a designated 12-hour period one day out of the year.

In “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,” which Taylor co-wrote with Corey Harrell, the Black family is now in a horror scenario that’s a direct ripoff of the 1985 movie “Fright Night.” Family patriarch Carl Black (played by Mike Epps) and his goofy cousin Cronut (played by Lil Duval), a bachelor who lives in Carl’s backyard, begin to suspect that their new next-door neighbor is a vampire, but no one believes them at first. The other members of the Black family are Carl’s wife Lorena (played by Zulay Henao); their college-age daughter Allie (played by Bresha Webb); and their underage teen son Carl Jr. (played by Alex Henderson). Allie and Carl Jr. are Carl’s kids from a previous marriage.

Carl has a shady past as a thief. As seen in “Meet the Blacks,” he’s been trying to leave his criminal life behind. In the beginning of “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,” it’s mentioned that Carl wrote a best-selling non-fiction book about the horror he experienced that was shown in the “Meet the Blacks” movie. However, irresponsible Carl blew all the money he made from the book, and the family has now been forced to downsize to a smaller home in Atlanta. Carl is currently unemployed, while Lorena is the family’s breadwinner—and she’s very unhappy that she has to carry all the financial weight for the family.

Meanwhile, Cronut (who is also unemployed) lives in an oversized camper in the family’s backyard. It’s a promotional camper that’s left over from a book tour that Carl did, and it still has images of Carl and the book emblazoned on the sides of the camper. Carl has some hard feelings toward Cronut, because Cronut talked Carl into some bad business deals that led to Carl losing his money.

The family’s financial problems have resulted in Allie dropping out of college, because Carl wrote a tuition check that bounced. Allie is dating a disabled man, who’s about the same age as Allie, named Freezee (played by Andrew Bachelor, also known as King Bach), who uses arm braces in order to walk. Carl is very prejudiced against Freezee because Carl doesn’t want Allie to date a disabled man. Carl gets even more upset when Allie says she wants to move away and live with Freezee.

Cronut is immediately suspicious of the new neighbor Dr. Mamuwalde (played by Katt Williams, who’s styled to look like Leon Russell from the 1970s) because Dr. Mamuwalde moved into the house next door well past midnight, and the only activity in the house seems to happen at night. During the first house party that Dr. Mamuwalde has at his home, it looks like a swingers party is going on in the backyard. Dr. Mamuwalde also seems to be avoiding meeting his new neighbors.

When Dr. Mamuwalde surfaces, he is almost always seen with two scantily clad women named Salt (played by Sisse Marie) and Pepper (played by Shamea Morton), who are both dressed in lingerie and are mute for most of the movie. Dr. Mamuwalde has a creepy servant named Monty (played by Cory Zooman Miller), who gives vague answers about Dr. Mamuwalde when nosy Cronut goes over to pay a visit. Carl eventually encounters Monty too, and Carl also thinks that something unusual is going on at Dr. Mamuwalde’s house.

At first, Carl thinks Cronut has a wild imagination about Dr. Mamuwalde being a vampire. Carl thinks that Dr. Mamuwalde is probably a pimp. It turns out that Dr. Mamuwalde is a vampire and a pimp. Later in the movie, Dr. Mamuwalde kidnaps Lorena and Allie because he wants them to be his sex slaves. In a lowbrow comedy like this, would you expect anything else?

Other neighbors who are in this story are wide-eyed and fearful Rico (played by Tyrin Turner), who disappears and has a fate that’s very easy to predict; tough guy Hugo (played by Danny Trejo), who doesn’t say much, but he observes more than he lets on to other people; and married couple Clive (played by Gary Owen) and Bunny (played by Jena Frumes), who are both completely useless to the movie’s plot. Owen was in “Meet the Blacks,” but playing a different character named Larry. In “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2,” Owen plays the token white guy who’s supposed to be racist.

Clive is a military veteran who uses a wheelchair and is a proud supporter of Donald Trump. (Clive wears a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, in case it wasn’t clear what his politics are.) Meanwhile, Bunny’s only purpose in the movie is to look like a basic Instagram model—she wears a bikini top and Daisy Duke cutoff shorts that leave little to the imagination—so that Carl and some other men can ogle her.

In fact, all of the women with significant speaking roles in the movie are exploited as sex objects at some point. Mother and daughter Lorena and Allie are both stripped down to their underwear in separate scenes. Not surprisingly, they’re wearing the type of lingerie that makes it look like they’re trying to be like Victoria’s Secret models.

Meanwhile, the men are fully clothed, except for one not-very-funny scene where a shirtless Cronut tries to seduce Bunny. There’s also a disgusting incest joke where Cronut suggests to his second cousin Allie that they have sex. He tells her that because they’re second cousins, it would be legal for them to have sex in Georgia. Not surprisingly, a repulsed Allie says no to Cronut’s sexual come-on.

Snoop Dogg has a small role, portraying himself as a TV talk show host who interviewed Carl in the past when Carl was promoting his book. One day, when a depressed Carl is at home, watching TV, and feeling sorry for himself, he sees an African man named Mr. Wooky (played by Michael Blackson) being interviewed on the show. Mr. Wooky claims to be a supernatural expert who can get rid of ghosts, vampires and other unwanted paranormal entities. Guess who Carl ends up hiring to get rid of the vampire next door?

All the so-called “jokes” in the movie are forgettable, and most are awful. Many of the jokes are about perpetuating the despicable and negative stereotype that black men hate themselves and don’t respect women. The visual effects are cheap-looking and not scary at all.

And all of the cast members are unremarkable in their roles, although Williams seems to be having some fun with his campy Dr. Mamuwalde character. Carl Jr. is barely in the movie; his total screen time is about five minutes. Rick Ross has a cameo as Mr. Saturday Night, who’s enlisted to help Carl and Cronut battle Dr. Mamuwalde. Mr. Saturday Night is another unnecessary character that was created just so the filmmakers could put hip-hop star Ross in the movie.

And a mid-credits scene announces the third movie in this series will be called “Chapter 3: The Ghost Squad,” starring Carl, Cronut, Mr. Wooky, Snoop Dogg and Hugo as the Ghetto Ghostbusters. Whether are not this “Ghost Squad” movie is really going to happen, you’ve been warned.

Lionsgate released “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” in select U.S. cinemas on June 11, 2021. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on July 9, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on August 10, 2021.

Review: ‘2 Minutes of Fame,’ starring Jay Pharoah and Katt Williams

June 24, 2020

by Carla Hay

RonReaco Lee and Jay Pharoah in “2 Minutes of Fame” (Photo by Claudette Barius/Codeblack Films/Lionsgate Films)

“2 Minutes of Fame”

Directed by Leslie Small

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles and Birmingham, Alabama, the comedy film “2 Minutes of Fame” has a predominantly African American cast (with a few white people and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: An aspiring stand-up comedian has to decide between chasing his dreams or getting a “real job” to help support his family, and he gets entangled in a feud with a superstar comedian.

Culture Audience: “2 Minutes of Fame” will appeal primarily to people who like simple, predictable and often-raunchy comedies.

Keke Palmer, Jonny Berryman, Jay Pharoah and RonReaco Lee in “2 Minutes of Fame” (Photo by Claudette Barius/Codeblack Films/Lionsgate Films)

A lowbrow, low-budget comedy film like “2 Minutes of Fame” is usually so terrible that there’s hardly anything funny about it. But “2 Minutes of Fame,” despite being very predictable, has an endearing sweetness at the core of its raunchy humor. The movie (directed by Leslie Small) works best when it focuses on the competitive world of stand-up comedy rather than the relationship/family problems of the protagonist.

In “2 Minutes of Fame,” Jay Pharoah portrays Deandre McDonald, an aspiring stand-up comedian who’s been struggling to make a living in Birmingham, Alabama. Even though Deandre has 1 million followers on social media (he has his own YouTube comedy channel), his live-in girlfriend Sky (played by Keke Palmer) is carrying the financial weight of being the main income earner for their household. In addition to working full-time at a hospital, Sky is a nursing student. Deandre and Sky have a son named Jaylin (played by Jonny Berryman), who’s about 9 or 10 years old.

The movie begins with Deandre making a YouTube video ridiculing a superstar comedian named Marques (played by Katt Williams) who used to be respected and edgy but Marques has currently been making horrible movies that have unflattering stereotypes of African Americans. How big of a star is Marques? He can command $20 million a movie, but he’s the very definition of a “sellout,” since his movies make him look like a complete buffoon.

On his YouTube channel, Deandre makes fun of the movie trailer for Marques’ latest garbage movie, which is called “Secret Service Man.” In the trailer, Marques plays a bumbling Secret Service agent who takes a non-fatal bullet for a U.S. president who’s an obvious parody of Donald Trump. (Darrell Hammond plays the president in a very brief cameo.) Deandre has this reaction to the trailer by commenting on Marques’ role in the film: “How can I make the most money while selling out our people while still being terrible?”

Deandre’s video goes viral (116,000 views in one day), and Marques finds out about it. When a lackey asks Marques if they should get revenge on Deandre, Marques says Deandre isn’t worth the trouble because Deandre only has 1 million followers on social media, while Marques has 30 million. But will Deandre and Marques cross paths in real life? Of course they will.

Before that happens, Deandre is miserable and bored in his day job working as a clerk at a supermarket that resembles Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. He’d rather tell stand-up comedy jokes to customers than stock the shelves. When his manager Zena (played by Jess Hilarious) tries to get Deandre to go back to work, he and Zena get in a food fight where they throw fruit and vegetables at each other. Needless to say, Deandre gets fired.

The timing couldn’t be worse for Deandre to lose his job because he and Sky are running out of money. Their son Jaylin is taunted by his peers in his piano class for not having a piano at home. Deandre has been behind on a lot of payments, but he’s too proud to admit to anyone outside of his family that he’s nearly broke.

When Deandre picks Jaylin up from a piano class session, Jaylin’s piano teacher Ms. Ellyn (played by Valery Ortiz) tries to tactfully tell Deandre that Jaylin has fallen behind the rest of the students because Jaylin doesn’t have a piano at home to use for practice. Ms. Ellyn (whose hair is styled with huge bouffant bangs) could have been trying to be helpful, but she comes across as condescending, and Deandre is insulted.

“You need help with those bangs in front of your face,” he angrily tells Ms. Ellyn. While he storms out he also calls her a “broke-ass Rosie Perez” and a “Puerto Rican version of Janelle Monáe.” But getting Jaylin a piano is not going to happen at the moment because Deandre and Sky have bigger bills to pay. Not surprisingly, Sky is furious when she finds out that Deandre lost his job at the supermarket.

However, there’s a sliver of hope for Deandre to make money doing what he loves. His wisecracking best friend Eddie (played by RonReaco Lee) has surprised Deandre by telling him that he entered Deandre into a talent contest for aspiring stand-up comedians called Laugh Out Loud Comedy Showcase. The winner of the grand prize will get to go on a Laugh Out Loud world comedy tour with established comedians. The contest takes place in Los Angeles at the Laugh Out Loud nightclub, which will pay the travel/hotel expenses of the contestants from outside the Los Angeles area.

When Deandre finds out he’s been selected as one of the contestants, Sky is skeptical that Deandre can win the contest. She wants him to stay home and find another job instead. Deandre wants to go to Los Angeles and pursue his dream. Sky and Deandre get into a big argument about it. She gives Deandrea an ultimatum by saying that if he goes to Los Angeles, their relationship will probably be over when he gets back.

Deandre and Eddie go to L.A., but of course they face some major obstacles. Eddie (who’s been acting as Deandre’s manager) is horrified and embarrassed to find out that Deandre sold their first-class hotel accommodations, so they end up having to sleep in the vehicle that was provided for them on the trip. Next, they find out that Deandre’s got really stiff competition.

Luckily, he’s met someone who can help. Her name is Taylor (played by Andy Allo), who works as a hostess at the Laugh Out Loud comedy club where the contest is taking place. Taylor scores Deandre a last-minute late-night spot at another comedy club called the Comedy Basement, where he can try out his material before the contest.

Taylor and Deandre are immediately attracted to each other. He doesn’t tell her that he has a live-in girlfriend and son at home. All he’ll say about his relationship status is that “it’s complicated.” Will this cause problems later in the story? Of course it will.

The best parts of “2 Minutes of Fame” are the scenes involving the contest. The stand-up comedy scenes are realistic and the comedians are very funny. It’s obvious that the movie got real stand-up comedians (including Pharoah) instead of actors portraying stand-up comedians. That authenticity goes a long way.

Aside from jokes told on stage, “2 Minutes of Fame” also realistically addresses the generation gap between comedians who started their careers before social media existed and comedians who started their careers after social media existed. There’s a hilarious L.A. nightclub table conversation with Sinbad, Lunell and George Wallace (all playing themselves) talking with Marques about how many young comedians today think they can make it big just by being on YouTube instead of paying their dues in front of live audiences.

Sinbad comments on the days when he was a young comedian: “You know what a ‘follow’ used to be? Someone was going to kill you or [it meant] a sexual predator.” And in another scene, Taylor (who’s close to Deandre’s age) also agrees that the “old school” way is the better way to become a famous comedian, when she tells Deandre: “Y’all YouTubers don’t understand what an art stand-up is.”

The movie also does a good and sometimes hilarious job of addressing the racial and cultural issues that African American stand-up comedians face when they have to represent for their communities but not compromise their credibility by doing anything that would be considered “sell-out” or “race traitor” material. The movie also touches a little bit (but not enough) on the sexism that women experience in the male-dominated world of stand-up comedy. However, since the screenplay (written by Devon Shepard and Yamara Taylor) has a male protagonist and most of the cast members are men, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of today’s typical demographics for stand-up comedy.

All of the cast members do a good job with their roles. Pharoah’s Deandre character is kind of an irresponsible screw-up, but Pharoah makes him likable enough that his immaturity doesn’t become too grating. Williams is not everyone’s cup of tea, especially since some people find his speaking voice to be very annoying, but he’s believable as a jaded celebrity. Palmer does just fine in a somewhat typical role as an exasperated love partner.

“2 Minutes of Fame” is definitely not for very young children or people who are easily offended by cursing and vulgar humor. But for people who are mature enough and don’t mind this type of raunchiness, the movie gives a better-than-expected look at stand-up comedy on the nightclub level and has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments that will keep viewers reasonably entertained.

Lionsgate released “2 Minutes of Fame” on DVD, digital and VOD on June 16, 2020.

Copyright 2017-2022 Culture Mix