Phat Beach

on August 02, 1996 by Tom Quinn
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   The funky charm of "Phat Beach" comes from its total lack of pretension and its unapologetic desire to delight its target audience, namely horny teenage boys with a penchant for hip-hop music. A funny, lowbrow beach romp that's not nearly as bad as it might have been, this little film bounces along amiably, serving a steady menu of dimwit gags and bodacious babes. Thought its vague message might be politically correct--that is, honesty with women and with life is the best policy--what audiences will carry away is anything but. Skin, sand and spandex are the order of the day.
   "Huggy" Hopkins and Brian Hooks play, respectively, Bennie and Durrel, a kind of African-American Abbott and Costello of teens stranded in the dull outpost of suburban Bakersfield. With a long summer stretching before them, they've got big plans. The chunky, sensitive-type Benny wants to take a poetry class. But his work-ethic father pushes him into an embarrassing job flipping burgers instead. Meanwhile, Durrel, a jive-talking huckster and babe hound, wants to cruise to L.A.'s Venice Beach to make the scene. When Bennie's family goes on a weekend trip, leaving his dad's new Mercedes in Bennie's care, Durrel cons his friend into providing the wheels--and the cash--for a three-day trek to bikini paradise. Naturally, they run into nothing but trouble, usually brought on by Durrel's self-serving antics or by their complete ignorance of life outside the suburbs. But this silly concoction of comedy banter and comely ladies works on its own level. The plot, such as it is, moves along nicely, and the movie actually tells a story, when it might have been just a lame vehicle for the soundtrack (which features Busta Rhymes, Bounty Killer, E-40 and The Click). Cameos by rapper Coolio, Y?N-Vee, and deejay Tre Black add to the urban, hip-hop flavor of the picture. But it really isn't about the music. The beach antics give a broad, crossover appeal, and the thinly written clowning between Hopkins and Hooks is a welcome relief from the violent urban stereotypes that usually clutter movies with a predominantly black cast.
   The Live production is a fun indulgence. It isn't brilliant comedy, and it certainly isn't art. It's good-natured, testosterone-driven chauvinism. Although some of it gets a little tedious, particularly to ladies in the audience, on the whole it's a harmless bit of summer froth.    Starring Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins and Brian Hooks. Directed by Doug Ellin. Written by Doug Ellin and Cleveland O'Neal. Produced by Cleveland O'Neal. An Orion release. Comedy. Rated R for sexuality, nudity and strong language. Running time: 90 min.
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