Oh, LOTTERY TICKET
, what can I say? I wanted you to win me over, but you didn’t. Your premise seemed promising. A young man who could really use the money actually wins -- and wins BIG at that.
While he's lucky enough to win, his timing isn't so fortunate -- the prize money can't be claimed. Why? It's Fourth of July weekend. And it's gonna be one LONG weekend. In a community where everyone knows everything about everyone, things can get complicated.
So, Kevin Carter (Bow Wow) has to figure out how to keep his “Mega Mondo Win” under wraps and survive the weekend unscathed.
Kevin is your normal teenage boy. He's a good, level-headed kid who lives with his grandma (Loretta Devine), young, with it, but God-fearing. She can't keep the secret to herself any longer and spills it to Semaj (Charlie Murphy), the type of person who needs something more than air to survive: gossip. He serves as the catalyst, the megaphone alerting everyone in the projects. And so the drama ensues. Everyone comes out of the woodwork; it all becoming one cacophonous, begging mess as neighbors simultaneously plead their cases, He gets an offer for an entourage and for a potential baby mamma. He takes the former, and instead of lying low, promises to take care of the community and embraces the fame that comes with coming into money.
People who hadn't given Kevin a second thought are all over him now. Whether utilizing sex, violence, power, or religion, they all have their methods.
There's Nikki, the good looking, albeit easy looking girl in the neighborhood. She's the chick who has her best assets on view, the kind of girl that make men break their necks as they do double takes, while other women roll their eyes, and tell them to close their mouths. Stacie (Naturi Naughton), one of Kevin's best friends, lays down some common sense, pointing out Nikki's quick change in attitude, hoping that it will outweigh his hormones. Nikki doesn't really like Kevin, but she does like the idea of being set for life. Her uterus serves as a ball and chain; she's the type of woman to poke holes into a condom, that is, if she were smarter. Lesser men than Kevin would have been suckered in by her hoochiness -- ahem -- seductive charm. For much of the film, Kevin is trying his best to avoid Lorenzo's (Gbenga Akinnagbe) grip. The neighborhood bully, he is the only one who would and does take the lottery ticket by force. In order to impress Nikki, Kevin borrows money from the local loan shark, the Godfather of the Projects, Sweet Tee (Keith David). More refined and subtler than Lorenzo, fails to mention the interest that would be sure to accumulate. Then there's the pinky ring, polyester suit wearing, money hungry "preacher" type, who is in need of a bigger church, a grander house, and a wife that isn't "built like a sack of laundry.”
The movie progressed well, however, there was a lack of intensity. Some of the acting came off a bit contrived and corny. The rooftop scene between Kevin and Benny, for one and the "Aha!" scene with Stacie and the grilled cheese. And don't get me started on the sudden switch to the baby making music when they start to go at it. I can't help but be skeptical when rappers or singers transition to the big screen as a lead, but Bow Wow held his own. All in all, I liked Naturi Naughton. I wasn't a fan of Mike Epps as the Reverend, and though he was integral to the film, I didn't care for Ice Cube, either. Besides Singleton's BOYZ IN THE HOOD and maybe, FRIDAY, I'm not a fan of the roles he's taken on. Brandon T. Jackson, Benny, is the stand out of the bunch. Minus the "serious, are we still gonna be boys" scene, he has versatility, a natural charisma, and good timing. There are funny lines, and good delivery by many of the cast, many of whom are lesser players.
Though it was filmed in Atlanta, this could be “Any Town, USA.” And just as universal, as relatable as the location is proposed to be, so too is the idea.
This is a film that will only appeal to some. I'm betting that that isn't a surprise. Of the three or so people not of color reviewing this film one woman left half way through and the gentleman well, every so often, I'd glance down to see him casually reading the newspaper. For the most part, a specific audience will be interested in this film and even then, it's going to turn some people within that group off. With certain movies, characters embody a formulaic set of characteristics and people can relate; they see themselves, see their relatives mirrored back. Stereotypes are based on some truth. Unfortunately, that truth lacks depth, and they're more often than not exaggerated, caricatures, and run the risk of appearing to portray an entire group of people. LOTTERY TICKET teeters on that high wire throughout while losing its balance on occasion.
A few days after my 18th birthday, I celebrated by doing the only thing I was then “legal” to do: buy a lottery ticket. Whether I put one or two dollars into the machine, I cant remember. What I do remember was taking a shiny Lincoln to the ticket, blowing off the gunmetal-grey color residue to reveal that I had won ten bucks. I haven't bought a ticket since that birthday. But like buying a lottery ticket with the hopes that your life will be different, I had hoped that this film would be, too. Most black comedies -- hell, a lot of comedies in general -- from the get-go aren't lottery tickets. There's not that chance of them being good, not even a worthwhile concept. The very fact that this was a ticket is what allows me to keep hope alive. But the numbers that this film left me to play, well, a few worked out, the rest just weren't there. Regardless, I'm sure I'll buy another ticket, eventually. I still appreciate the possibility. The chance that maybe, I'll be surprised.
And at least, in theory (a) LOTTERY TICKET is a good idea.