My history with blaxploitation films is not particularly the best, yet nevertheless I found Black Dynamite funny enough. In the age where parody almost seems like a dying form of comedy at the hands of the Scary Movie franchise or Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, Black Dynamite rises above the modern day standards even if it doesn’t reach heights that have been set afoot by the films of Mel Brooks among many classics, there’s still an entertaining ride to be found and for those who love blaxploitation films, maybe it would be easier to find the sort of enjoyment that such a movie is set to provide. And for those who aren’t familiar enough with the sort, there’s a chance the ride will still provide the laughs it meant to bring to begin with.
Starring Michael Jai White as Black Dynamite, the trailers would already have said it all: “he super cool and he know kung fu!” It took White long enough but it wasn’t until he played Black Dynamite where he played the role he was born for. As the titular Black Dynamite, just watching him inside all of his glory is nothing more than pleasing on all counts. Whether it come from how well he fits into an action sequence or the exaggerated delivery of his one-liners, it’s never not entertaining watching him recreate the glory of blaxploitation on all counts. If anything were especially missing from the experiences of watching parody films, it would be a sense that they understand what it is that makes their sources as great as they are and Black Dynamite succeeds in bringing oneself back towards that era of parody comedy.
Although I’m probably not one to comment enough on how well this movie goes to represent blaxploitation given my lack of experience, there was something about watching Black Dynamite that still had me in awe at how much it clearly loves the sort of films that it is spoofing. Perhaps I would have found it much easier to have gotten the jokes had I actually seen more blaxploitation but nevertheless it was easy to recognize in spirit that Black Dynamire had a clear understanding of parody during its best era and how to make the best of what its own roots have lied upon. Coming down to the costumes or the attention to detail it still feels in spirit like a film that lives out as if it truly were carrying everything about blaxploitation that defined these films.
Yet on another count I feel this is where I’m disappointed. For how well this film seems to understand blaxploitation and what these films have been formed upon, it doesn’t seem to be one that goes beyond surface level aesthetic recreation. Sure, it is one of a few elements that would be necessary in order to form the perfect parody film but I feel that this film to some extent does lack enough energy to actually parody blaxploitation in its roots. Instead of living as a blaxploitation film making fun of other films of the sort, it just feels more like it is interested only in recreating the ridiculousness of said films rather than actually making fun of them in itself. There are many absurd moments that I would only imagine blaxploitation films would not have carried during their own prominence but it never seemed to move in a sense it was making fun of that aspect, rather instead it becomes what it was supposed to parody.
That’s not to say Black Dynamite is without its funny moments. When it comes to the outright absurdity of the turn of events or the film’s nature to narrate how ridiculous everything is set to become, it’s never not glorious to watch. These are everywhere to be found in the film because of the film’s glorification of the silliness which it is living within and with Michael Jai White’s persona now as a comic actor, he isn’t only looking the part but he shows another talent on the inside of him. And knowing what it lives within, the short running time feels perfect for this show of silliness, for it never feels too long nor does it overstay its own welcome. It’s a funny film that is only set to tickle if one can watch the film’s ridiculousness come out to its fullest, one that may lunge even further if you are familiar with the films it parodies, but still feels welcoming to newcomers.
After watching Black Dynamite I only feel in the mood to watch more actual blaxploitation because I can imagine there’s another level of glory that I’m missing out on. What I loved most about watching Black Dynamite was how easy it was to recognize the love it carries for the films it is making fun of, and for those who aren’t familiar, it still feels welcoming for audiences of all sorts. One may already say that parody is dead at the hands of filmmakers like Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, but with a case like Black Dynamite, we have something that understands its roots. Yet while I was still laughing at the film’s utter ridiculousness, I still thought to myself that there could have been so much more coming out beyond the surface level.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony Pictures.
Directed by Scott Sanders
Screenplay by Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White, Byron Minns
Produced by Jon Steingart, Jenny Wiener Steingart
Starring Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson
Release Year: 2009
Running Time: 84 minutes