Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In the spirit of ‘The Big Chill’, in which a group of friends who seem to despise each other are brought together by the tragic death of one them, we have ‘The Black Chill’.  Okay, so it’s not called ‘The Black Chill’ with Datari Turner productions going with ‘Dysfunctional Friends’, and yes they are plenty dysfunctional, but ‘The Black Chill’ kind of has a ring to it.  Can’t we get back to the seventies when most every movie that had a Black cast had the word ‘Black’ in the title?  For those of us who actively seek out Black Entertainment, it would make these products so much easier to track down.

Dennis (Keith Robinson) is dead.  By all accounts he was wonderful guy who lived life on the edge, which is why he’s dead now.  But now it’s time to celebrate Dennis’ life which means all of his close friends from Howard University… and there’s a cast full… need to make it to his funeral to send him off.  About these ‘friends’ that Dennis has… they are all, universally, distasteful.  Except maybe Stylz (Christian Keys) and Lisa (Stacey Dash) who are only slightly distasteful.  Hopefully Dennis won’t be judged by the company he kept because it will not present the brother in the most positive of lights.

Brett (Wesley Jonathan) is a big time ad exec, married to Alex (Tatiana Ali) while trying to carry on an affair with his secretary Hanna (Vanessa Simmons).  Trenyce (Persia White) used to be Dennis’ girlfriend until she left him to focus on her acting career, and now she’s stuck making Straight to DVD movies… like this one.  Speaking of films, there’s Gary (Jason Weaver) who directs erotica, but he did direct the music video of Jamal (Hosea Sanchez), a music video which is largely credited with destroying his hip hop career.  We also have the aforementioned Stylz who is vacuous male model, Ebony (Reagan Preston-Gomez) the hateful hair salon operator, Storm (Stacey Keibler) the professional sports groupie, and finally there’s Aaron (Datari Turner) who is still in love with Lisa, but Lisa is engaged to be married to Jackson (Terrell Owens) the jerkoff basketball star.  Not that Aaron isn’t a jerkoff too.  In fact, in many ways he’s worse. 

Allright.  Dennis left a large estate, and he left this estate to his friends.  But to get this estate, as delivered to them by his inappropriately dressed lawyer Ms. Stevens (Meagan Good), they have to spend five days together in Dennis’ Malibu villa to get the loot.  If anybody leaves, nobody gets anything.  Ms. Stevens has a sour disposition too. 

Now the stage is set for back stabbing, arguing, cursing, secret revealing, hysterics, complaining, crying, bitching, whining, and lots of Christian Keyes walking around in his underwear, with Terrell Owens and Datari Turner doing a lot of muscle flexing.  This is a movie directed by a man, produced men, with a virtual murderous row of beautiful women in its cast, and yet this is what I’m looking at.  What is up with that?   Regardless, hopefully everyone can get along, get the loot and live happily ever after.

So… here’s the main issue I had with ‘Dysfunctional Friends’ beyond looking at Christian Keys in his drawers rub himself down with baby oil and Persia White not doing something similar, though his baby oil song was really funny.  The problem is that there’s nobody in this movie that’s all that much fun to be around.  Maybe the filmmakers should’ve made half these people semi-pleasant so that we can root for somebody?  Or at least give us something so we can draw some kind of rational conclusion how these horrible people could be friends with anybody?  Now to Christian Keys credit, his character as the somewhat slow friend whose fatal flaw was his vanity, but his fatal flaw was funny where as everyone else’s flaws made us a little uncomfortable.
That being said, if you can get past the fact that most everybody in this comedy was hateful or if this doesn’t bother you, then director Corey Grant’s movie isn’t all that bad.  The performances were fine, which is expected considering the cast is made up of a veritable who’s who of young Black actors, all of whom are very talented.  Yes, we know Stacey Dash isn’t all that young anymore, theoretically old enough to be the mom of a few of these cast members… theoretically… but does she still look good?  Yes she does.  Even T.O. wasn’t all that bad.  We’re not calling him the second coming of Paul Robeson or anything, but he did pretty good for what he was asked to.  Which was play an asshole athlete.  I know.  There are some good laughs in the movie, there was a ton of melodrama for those out there who like that kind of thing and it was certainly never dull.  The movie did have like five separate conclusions, shoehorning unreasonable happy endings for these horrible people, felling as if it didn’t want to ever go off, and the dead guy was narrating which I don’t think is really possible, but what are you gonna do about that?

True enough I didn’t enjoy my time spent with the characters in ‘Dysfunctional Friends’, but gosh darn, the movie does have the word ‘dysfunctional’ in its title so we can’t say it snuck up on us.  I would’ve preferred a few slightly less dysfunctional characters, but like I mentioned earlier, if you can get past that, the movie does have some entertainment value to offer.

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