Mamma’s boy Jody (Tyrese Gibson) lies naked and curled-up in the womb — all of 20-odd years old. A voice-over announces the genesis of Baby Boy from the words of controversial African-American author Frances Cress Welsing. White supremacist America, Welsing argues, has emasculated black males into a desire to return to the womb. In the language of the hood, men will be “boys” and all women up in the “crib” are some kind of “mommas.” Black men will return to that true motherland of the womb by any means necessary, militantly (but unconsciously) reclaiming their manhood in sex and procreation.
But director John Singleton (Shaft) ain’t just makin’ a dry educational film. As in his debut, Boyz N the Hood (1991), first there is the word, but then the medium becomes the message. Jody’s garden-of-Eden womb quakes and we find him in the same South Central LA hood, but 10 years later. The issue is no longer black-on-black crime, but how boys become men.
Jody is still living at his momma Juanita’s (Adrienne-Joi Johnson) house watching cartoons, building model cars and pedaling his low-rider bike down the streets when his girl and baby’s momma Yvette (Taraji Henson) won’t give up the keys to her ride. Everything’s straight — until Juanita lets recovering thug Melvin (Ving Rhames) move in and Yvette starts trippin’ over Jody’s booty calls. Things go from bad to worse when Yvette’s worthless, gangster ex, Rodney (Snoop Dogg), shows up on her doorstep freshly released from prison. To save his family, Baby Boy’s got to cut his apron strings and become responsible, taking the accelerated course to manhood.
Singleton persistently hammers on the note of the stereotypical young, black, urban male’s militant immaturity, but his message still manages to get drowned out at times by the yells and screams of his characters as they plunge down the roller coaster of love. Baby Boy offers laughs at the expense of some homeboys and stumbles by playing a sleight-of-hand plot trick in a scene that parodies the heartrending climax of Boyz N the Hood. Melodramatically lighter and lacking the poise of Singleton’s first born, Baby Boy may have been delivered prematurely.
Click here to visit the official Baby Boy Web site.
Click here to read Serena Donadoni's exclusive interview with Baby Boy director John Singleton in this week's Reckless Eyeballing.
E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].