Film (1993). Tinsel Townsend/MGM. Produced by Loretha C Jones, directed and written by Robert Townsend. Cast includes Don Cheadle, Bill Cosby, Marla Gibbs, Eddie Griffin, Robert Guillame, James Earl Jones and Townsend. 100 minutes. Colour.
Townsend, the film's writer, director and leading actor, is a black comic with an extremely likeable, gentle manner; likeable enough, apparently, for him – he arranged the financing – to obtain many of the leading black actors in the US for what in this congenial low-budget comedy must have been a pittance. A timid schoolteacher (Townsend) in a black area of Washington, District of Columbia, is given Superhero powers when struck by a mysterious green meteor. Being afraid of heights, however, he mostly flies only four feet above the ground. His neighbours persuade him to use his Superpowers to do something about the Golden Lords, a black gang terrorizing the area, but after several spectacular successes this becomes more difficult as his powers begin to wear off. In the end, his neighbours summon up the strength to resist the hoodlums on their own. The film is perhaps too simplistic in its view that endemic black-against-black violence can be countered with ordinary decency, but despite that is innocent and fresh in its portrayal of neighbourhood life, though most of the star names are wasted in being given very little to do. It is pleasant to have a borderline sf movie that questions whether superhero powers, in the end, would be of much use. [PN]
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