What’s that old showbiz maxim? “Just give the people what they want.”
That’s the byword for “Chocolate City,” an African American riff on a certain stripper movie smash of a couple of summers back.
“Magic Mike ain’t got NOTHING on you,” the unemployed hustler Chris (DeRay Davis) gushes to his baby brother Michael (Robert Ri’chard of “Coach Carter”).
And he’s right. Even though Channing Tatum’s “Magic Mike” had a sharper script, funnier characters and more pathos, Michael is ripped and rhythmic enough to take it all and drive the ladies crazy.
A college student without the cash to take on a girlfriend (Imani Hakim) or help his widowed working-two-jobs mom (Vivica A. Fox), Mike answers a men’s room solicitation from MC Princeton (Michael Jai White) and joins the dance crew at Chocolate City. And Ladies’ Night will never be the same.
The costumes — cop, soldier, Spartan and cowboy — and lack of them mimics “Magic Mike.” The melodrama — keeping his sideline secret from his mother and would-be girlfriend — duller.
There’s rage and diva behavior in the macho dressing room — “Who’re you calling SENSITIVE?”
And there are rules — “Give them the fantasy. Give’em what they can’t get at home…But never get personal.” Because there’s more touching and grinding in “Chocolate City,” and every Sunday — this being an African American comedy shot in Tyler Perrytown (Atlanta) — there’s a scolding from the preacher.
Writer-director Jean-Claude La Marre plays that hip and happening man of the cloth, dropping cracks Chris Brown, “the club,” the stoner comedy “Friday” and “the faint smell of Stoli-cranberry” into his sermons. But he’s the highlight of his movie.
His leading man and that lead’s love interest have no chemistry. His master of ceremonies has no flash. The funny supporting cast has little to do. It’s got one violent scene, some African American comedy cliches (clueless church ladies, etc.) and not nearly enough laughs to carry “Chocolate City” from appetizer to dessert.
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content throughout, partial nudity, language and brief violence.
Cast: Robert Ri’chard, DeRay Davis, Vivica A. Fox, Carmen Electra. Michael Jai White
Credits: Written and directed by Jean-Claude La Marre. A Freestyle/Paramount release.
Running time: 1:31