Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Double Take

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Jones (l) and Griffin: honor among buffoons.
  • Jones (l) and Griffin: honor among buffoons.

Alfred Hitchcock presents “Amos ’n’ Andy”? Yes … and no. Double Take’s writer-director George Gallo (Bad Boys, 29th Street) cops some moves from the master of suspense for his plot. Sound serious? Not even close.

Meet the unlikely comedy duo Daryl Chase (Orlando Jones, The Replacements) and Freddy Tiffany (Eddie Griffin, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo), more Amos ’n’ the Kingfish than Amos ’n’ Andy. Chase is a player — in the big-business, not the “gettin’ busy” sense of the word. He’s the homeboy who’s fallen from grace with the hood. Tiffany plays the role of a funky, dancing street hustler. When a homey robs Chase, Tiffany comes to the brother’s aid with some Kung Fu fighting whup-ass. But it ends up that he’s played Chase as a stooge, a Fortune 500 Andy, to his con artist Kingfish — or so it seems.

Gallo rips off Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) and Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor’s comic buddy flick, Silver Streak (1976), to turn up the heat. Like North by Northwest’s Roger Thornhill (the Cary Grant role), Chase seems to be caught red-handed in a murder, ditches the cops in disguise and takes it on the lam by train. Silver Streak makes a minstrel show of the sequence with Pryor putting Wilder in shoe-polish blackface, trading clothes with him and coaching him in how to “act black.” Chase doesn’t need the shoe polish, but he can use a swap of clothes and a quick lesson in finding his inner hood rat. He proves to be an apt pupil. Both end up jumping from the frying pan into the fire as they clownishly bumble toward clearing their names.

Double Take’s Hitchcock riffs fit because being black in America can still be a Hitchcockian situation, complete with false accusations and villainous police. This “action-comedy” has some laugh-out-loud moments — not as many as the talented Griffin gets with his own hilarious stand-up material, but many have the whiff of burnt cork (blackface), even though the characters are just pretending to be ignorant buffoons.

Double Take offers up successful people of color — but the white writers and actors of “Amos ’n’ Andy” said the same of their show 70 years ago.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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