In the same South Central Los Angeles neighborhood, real life is about to crash down on 20-year-old Jody (model/singer/VJ Tyrese Gibson). He has two children by two different "baby mamas" -- level-headed Yvette (Taraji Henson) and too-young Peanut (Tamara LaSeon Bass) -- he's unemployed, and he's still living with his own mama Juanita (A.J. Johnson). He's also clashing with his mom's new man, an aging "O.G." named Melvin (Ving Rhames) who's looking to move in; and, he's got to keep his volatile roughneck friend Sweetpea (Cuba Jr.'s brother Omar Gooding) out of trouble, without getting dragged down into more trouble himself. And to top things off, he's seeing competition from Yvette's ex-con ex-boyfriend (the inimitable Snoop Dogg).
While this all-too-familiar story of inner city woe has been done to death over the last decade, Singleton manages to keep it fresh and unpredictable by steering the plot in unconventional directions throughout the movie. He puts unusual yet plausible twists on such overplayed topics as drive-by shootings and domestic abuse, and still manages to deliver some powerful messages in the mix. And unlike the caricaturized roles in Boyz, he's created very complex characters that are more believably flawed. Instead of Laurence Fishburne's ultra-Zen and all-knowing father, we get Ving Rhames' reformed killer who wants to teach Jody how to be a man, but has very little patience for his hardheaded immaturity. Thankfully, Singleton seems to have gotten a better sense of humor these last few years (maybe Shaft loosened him up?) and peppers the movie with a number of hilarious scenes, including one where Jody walks in on a totally naked Melvin cooking eggs for breakfast.
It also seems that Singleton has great luck with putting non-actors to work in his movies. Just as Ice Cube showed his acting chops as Dough Boy in Boyz, Snoop really produces with a menacing role, and film newcomer Tyrese turns out a dramatic and varied starring performance. Singleton's women are even more stunning, especially Johnson as the tough and torn Juanita and Henson, who handles Yvette's roller coaster emotions with skill.
By refusing to be as dogmatic or overly simplistic as he's been with his other films, Singleton may have redeemed himself and his talent with Baby Boy. Perhaps now we can erase those bad memories of Higher Learning.
Do a wheelie, will ya?
Run time: 130 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 27th June 2001
Box Office USA: $27.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $29.4M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 65 Rotten: 27
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: John Singleton
Producer: John Singleton
Screenwriter: John Singleton
Starring: Tyrese Gibson as Joseph Summers, Taraji P. Henson as Yvette, Omar Gooding as Sweetpea, Ving Rhames as Melvin 'Mel', Snoop Dogg as Rodney, Adrienne-Joi Johnson as Juanita, Angell Conwell as Kim, Kareem J. Grimes as Do Dirty, Tracey Cherelle Jones as Sharika
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...
The increasingly stale Marvel formula gets a blast of fresh air in this rollocking adventure...
An unusually inventive approach brings this story to life, as the filmmakers get into the...
Fans of the surprise 2012 hit Ted will find plenty to love in this sequel,...