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Way Past Cool

"Way Past Cool" initially seems a cross between an urban gang tale and "The Little Rascals," partly because director Davidson opens with music from "Our Gang." The film doesn't fail completely in its attempt to provoke thought, but it does leave the viewer somewhat unsatisfied.

Opening with a hip-hop score, it quickly makes obvious that "Our Gang" won't be in this story. Instead, we see young gang-bangers roaming Oakland, California -- which they call "Oaktown." Simply named "The Friends," the young group of street-savvy youth is lead by crafty, chubby Gordon. He doesn't seem to have the smarts to lead them, but a gun tucked into his belt somehow convinces us he will.

On the way to school one day, he and others of the Friends are shot at in a drive-by, and thus find themselves in a gang war. Deek, a teenage dealer leading the assault, is mad at the Friends' refusal to peddle his drugs. The greatest complication arises for Danny, who belongs to the Friends, but, as the younger brother of Ty, Deek's bodyguard, Danny must now decide whether he'll stay true to the Friends, or side with Deek and his own brother.

The movie has good ideas; its screenplay is based on a best-selling novel by Jess Mowry and was produced by Norman Lear and Milos Forman, writers for "All In The Family," and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," respectively, so the people behind the project have talent and credentials to make a strong social-political commentary. So how do the movie's weaknesses arise?

The narration begins, "Once upon a time in the hood," and several lines are borderline camp. But its good moments outweigh the bad. With strong performances (and several inconsistent ones), scenes of serious dramatic tension, and enough human compassion to make you care about what happens, the movie offers a different slant on urban gangs.

A film with almost all child and teenage actors, "Way Past Cool" is remarkably well-acted, even though the story isn't wholly believable. An interesting film that wasn't executed as effectively as possible, it's nonetheless worth a look.

On DVD, "Way Past Cool" is available in English and Spanish with subtitles, and has interesting commentary -- although not in-depth -- about the film's controversial subject matter.
Director(s): Adam Davidson
Writer(s): Norman Lear
Cast: not listed
Release Date: 2003   
Keyword: Gang-bangers, Oaktown, drive-by
Target Age: 10+   Category: Make Selection
Documentary: no
Language: English (and Spanish w/subtitles)   Reviewer's Name: Micah
Review: http://MRQE
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