Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood

on January 12, 1996 by Pat Kramer
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   If you liked "In Living Color," the Fox TV comedy in which the Wayans clan came to fame, you'll love "Don't Be A Menace...," an uproarious film that successfully crosses the racial barrier by finding humor in the most unlikely places. From the O.J. trial to drive-by shootings to rappin', armed grandmas, the film quickly moves from subject to subject, at a pace that keeps the humor fresh.
   Shawn Wayans plays the well-intentioned Ashtray, who returns to his old neighborhood in South Central and reunites with his homies: Loc Doc (Marlon Wayans), the wheelchair-bound Crazy Legs (Suli McCullough) and Malcolm X wannabe Preach (Chris Spencer), as well as the seductive Dashiki (Tracey Cherelle Jones). Along the way, Ashtray encounters all sorts of trials and tribulations in scenes that spoof every major black film to come down the pike. In doing so, they breathe new life into typical scenes from the ghetto, making a mockery of the violence and hatred that is the target of their unlicensed humor.
   "Don't Be A Menace..." reunites the team of Keenen Ivory Wayans and Eric L. Gold, who produced "A Low Down Dirty Shame." Keenen also is featured as the hood's postman, ducking bullets as part of his routine. Marlon Wayans is hysterical as the deranged, beer-swilling, arsenal-bearing Loc Doc. Similarly, Shawn Wayans is smokin' as boy-next-door Ashtray. But the most memorable performance comes from Loc Doc's Grandma (Helen Martin), a tough-talking, fist-fighting, break-dancing senior citizen who drives the meanest-looking set of wheels in the hood.
   Believable, enjoyable and totally entertaining, "Don't Be A Menace..." provides the humor where it's most needed and then some. Starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans. Directed by Paris Barclay. Written by Shawn and Marlon Wayans & Phil Beauman. Produced by Keenen Ivory Wayans. A Miramax release. Comedy. Rated R for strong language, sexuality, some drug content and violence. Running time: 84 min.
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