Jody (Tyrese Gibson) is a young man with an attitude – the wrong attitude. He already has two children by two different girlfriends. One of these, Yvette (Taraji P Henson) is his regular girlfriend; but he still prefers to live at home with his mother (Adrienne-Joi Johnson). He likes to sleep with other women and hang with his friend Sweetpea (Omar Gooding) and getting a job is low on his list of priorities. Then his mother introduces him to her new boyfriend, Melvin (Ving Rhames). Seeing Melvin as a threat to his comfortable existence, he decides to embark on a new, but potentially dangerous, course.
John Singleton returns to the ‘hood with this interesting look into the African-American experience – a topic that gets little exposure in this country. His earlier film, Boyz ‘n the ‘Hood, looked at the link between parental failings and the behaviour of youth. Baby Boy is almost the flip side of Boyz… and thankfully avoids the didacticism of some of his other efforts (Higher Learning, for example). In fact, this is arguably Singleton’s most mature work to date. The film starts out with Jody explaining a psychiatrist’s theory that because of racism in America, the black man is like a child, incapable of making an independent decision. It then moves in a completely different direction, arguing essentially for individual responsibility over easy slogans or pat excuses. Singleton makes his points a little obtusely on occasions (the ending is one of them), and includes a number of superfluous scenes; but as a whole, Baby Boy works as both a character study, and an allegory for wider social problems. The film’s main weakness lies in the acting. While the leading actors all give strong performances, some of the minor roles are played less than convincingly. Tyrese Gibson marks himself as an actor to watch with a fine performance (one reminiscent of Mekhi Phifer in Spike Lee’s Clockers). Ving Rhames is muscular and menacing as Melvin, while both Adreinne-Joi Johnson and Taraji P Henson show heart as the women in Jody’s life. Baby Boy’s take on being black in America is an unusual one; one in which race is in one sense incidental to the story, yet is intimately woven into it. Like Leslie Harris’ Just Another Girl on the IRT, it’s a film about growing up, taking responsibility and – in the truest sense – doing the right thing.
Email this article
BABY BOY (MA)
CAST: Tyrese, Taraji P. Henson, Omar Gooding, Tamara LaSeon Bass, Candy Ann Brown
DIRECTOR: John Singleton
PRODUCER: John Singleton
SCRIPT: John Singleton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charles Mills
EDITOR: Bruce Cannon
MUSIC: David Arnold, Snoop Doggy Dogg (song), Marvin Gaye (song), Macy Gray (song),
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Keith Brian Burns
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 15, 2001