Break yourself fool! There are only a few comedies that guarantee non-stop laughter and Don’t Be a Menace is one of them. Actually, the full title of this masterpiece is Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. Now if that doesn’t scream creativity and willingness to go the distance, I don’t know what is. This will become clear within the first few minutes of this movie. The rapid-fire jokes, gags, and slapstick humor are simply hilarious. You won’t have time to breathe with this motherfucker because you’ll be rolling on the floor laughing your ass off.
To this day, I know most of the lines from this movie by heart. And every once in a while, when someone starts pestering me about something, I would just go: I got these cheeseburgers, man… Most people will tell you that you first need to see a couple of hood movies to get the full picture. Don’t Be a Menace makes fun of the following hood movies: Boyz n the Hood, Menace II Society, Juice, and South Central. On the other hand, when I first saw this movie, I didn’t know any of them and it was still funny as hell.
Over the years, as I slowly started to get more and more acquainted with the genre, I started to pick up on a lot of jokes that I just took at face value. For example, Ashtray’s father is only a few years older than him making fun of the fact that Cuba Gooding Jr. is only 7 years younger than Laurence Fishburne in Boyz n the Hood.
The world of parody movies has a long and rich history but it really blossomed in the eighties and early nineties. I think that the huge success of Airplane!, released in 1980, contributed immensely to this. It was followed by such classics as The Naked Gun, History of the World, and Spaceballs. Actually, the Wayans brothers’ first movie was I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, a blaxploitation parody directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. And in the nineties, we had a veritable explosion of great parody movies. Hot Shots, Naked Gun sequels, Spy Hard and Robin Hood were all great. This brings us to Don’t Be a Menace, released the same year as another hood movie parody High School High.
This is the time when gang violence was at its worst along with institutional racism and discrimination. And while it started to escalate a decade earlier, the roots of it go a long way back. And nothing was helping. Mostly because you would need to approach this problem from multiple angles. If you wanted to solve and I’m sure as shit that “The Man” doesn’t want that. I should stop before we get too serious for such a funny movie. A movie that even pokes fun at itself and is able to get away with many crazy sequences.
Again, I simply can’t get over the fact of how well-thought-out and scripted the jokes and gags were. Never before or since have I seen such craftsmanship, ingenuity, and talent. Wayans brothers never repeated the same level of quality but they did release some great movies. White Chicks, Senseless, Scary Movie, and A Low Down Dirty Shame just to name a few. So, after all these movies mentioned, I don’t think it will be hard to pick your next one.
And I didn’t even mention hood stoner classics like Friday or How High. Also, I just can’t start getting into all kinds of great characters we will meet here as I feel I would have to mention them all. It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I am in, Don’t be a Menace will always put a smile on my face. Also, although I’m not black, I feel a real sense of friendship and familiarity with all these characters. Hell, the opening speech that Ashtray’s mom gave him is a word for word what my parents have been telling me when I was a kid.
If they added that but six years at a two-year college line from How High, it would be too much. And if you reversed his father’s lines, you would get my father’s lines and so forth. Not to mention all the poverty and I have to say just general injustice, as I can only imagine how it is fucked up to be a black man in the USA. I don’t want to end on a sad note because this movie is not about that.
While it seems like a dumb movie without any lasting value, it’s actually quite subversive. Humor is one of the strongest weapons there is and satire is something that all dictators fear. When you can make fun of something, it loses its power or appeal. And it’s the same thing with this movie. Just imagine checking out this movie in 1996 and seeing these same characters in real life. They wouldn’t seem so dangerous or cool and perhaps you would look at them in a different way than before. Just something to think about. So, don’t waste any time and check out this masterpiece of comedy as soon as possible.
Director: Paris Barclay
Writers: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Phil Beauman
Cast: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Tracey Cherelle Jones, Chris Spencer, Suli McCullough, Darrel Heath, Lahmard J. Tate
Fun Facts: A trailer for the film included the tagline, “It’s the only movie released this year with fourteen words in its title”