Friday, January 9, 2009

DJG / Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Dave Chappelle's Block Party * * * ½
Directed by: Michel Gondry / 2006

Unlike most everyone I know, I’ve always found Dave Chappelle’s brand of humor more obnoxious than hysterical. He’s just never rang much of a bell for me. The same reaction comes from me with hip-hop and rap music. I have found it recently to be one of the more creatively fused genres of mainstream music, but I guess I still just don’t “get” it. However, something almost magical happens on screen when combining the two and I was no party pooper with “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party”. The only finger I can put on it is heart. And whether its Dave’s day-to-day with ordinary people or mega musical stars sharing time and gifts with a struggling-yet-strong community, this documentary wears it in a unique way.

Surprise, yet no surprise, steering the ship is director Michel Gondry. I honestly doubt I would have wanted to see this movie if Gondry’s name hadn’t been attached. However, his signature movie moves are not attached, and that’s not a bad thing with this documentary as he restrains himself just enough to make something new and true to its source. It seems to me that Gondry was influenced greatly by the Brooklyn block party for his charming "Be Kind Rewind" set in New Jersey.

I think it was a smart move for Chappelle to go with Michel and for Michel to go with Chappelle. It doesn't make sense on paper to me, but it somehow works. Gondry is no stranger to music, good times and heart. His signature videos and features have made his name the modern movie definition of unique and hands-on, childlike innocence with a master’s glue. Here, Gondry scales back on the block, observing Dave and his party guests and diving into neighborhood history and pride. What could be a ho-hum affair is stitched together in a very fresh, watchable and heartfelt way, even if you're not a fan of Chappelle or hip-hop and rap music.


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