King's Ransom

(2005) * Pg-13
95 min. New Line Cinema. Director: Jeff Byrd. Cast: Donald Faison, Anthony Anderson, Loretta Devine, Kellita Smith, Jay Mohr.

The vile comedy King's Ransom is strictly for connoisseurs of crass. As written by Wayne Conley and directed by Jeff Byrd, King's Ransom is populated solely with hateful characters, so the audience can only root for a character who is torturing another. Golddiggers, assholes, sluts, donut-eating cops, and a drooling, farting old crone are among the stereotypes trotted out for shrill attempts at humor. In what amounts to his first leading role, Anderson fails to bring the funny, instead wearing out his persona of misplaced self-regard and self-righteous exasperation.

Conley's script employs naked exposition and clumsy plotting to weave its tangled web of kidnappers, all trying to stick it to Anthony Anderson's valuable mogul Malcolm King. The independent plotters include two scorned women—King's estranged wife Renee (Kellita Smith) and Angela Drake (Nicole Ari Parker), passed over for promotion in favor of King's ditzy receptionist/mistress Peaches (Regina Hall). Corey, a white-trash loser who can't hold a job as a fast-food mascot (Jay Mohr), joins the fray, as well as King himself, who figures his faked kidnapping will protect his assets in the divorce proceedings.

The kidnap schemes clumsily collide, with the added complication of a valet (Donald Faison) who claims to be King to impress a date and winds up kidnapped by a just-released convict (Charlie Murphy, Eddie's older brother) still jonesing for homosexual sex. Oh, the humanity. Though very little of this is funny, the last act at least musters some of the frantic farcical energy not seen since Smokey and the Bandit. Conley and Byrd finally go too far by expecting we'll have a soft spot for these venal criminals by picture's end. For good measure, they turn around again for some last minute potshots at the characters' expense. Happy hunting, boys...the rest of us are trudging home, tails between our legs.

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