Friday, September 6, 2019

Dave Chapelle: Sticks and Stones (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Dave Chapelle: Sticks and Stones (2019)
Genre: Comedy
Length:  65 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Netflix
Director: Stan Lathan
Writer: Dave Chappelle
Actor: Dave Chappelle

Blurb from IMDb: Dave Chappelle takes on gun culture, the opioid crisis, and the tidal wave of celebrity scandals in a defiant stand-up special filmed in Atlanta.

Selina’s Point of View:
I heard that this comedy special was controversial, but I think that was an understatement. 

My personal sense of humor is versatile. I can enjoy the innocent punny stuff, but I can also go really dark. So, the rumors about how controversial Sticks and Stones was didn’t make me nervous. No one can argue Dave Chappelle’s timing, or iconic persona, so I was looking forward to seeing this. 

I wasn’t five minutes in before I realized how on point the rumors were. 

He went beyond dark. The controversy started right out of the gate and didn’t let up at all. There was no taking a breath between horrifying subjects.

The thing is, and it’s something critics seem to have forgotten, Chappelle is genius and more self-aware than most people on this planet. This is a man that walked away from a profitable show so that he could travel to South Africa and live a life less in the spotlight. He canceled his own show because executives wanted him to sanitize his work and he refused to give in on pressure.

Now we’re living in a time where a single tweet from a decade ago can get a comedian ‘canceled’.

I think that Chappelle purposely went as far over the line as he possibly could. I’m almost positive the tone of his show is directly related to how ridiculous – and cherry-picking – cancel culture can be.

I understand the reviews. Normally, I see a large difference between the critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes as a failure on a critic’s part to fully consider the entertainment value of a project. In this case, I consider it a success on Chappelle’s part. The 99% audience score comes from the understanding of why he was pushing the limit so far. It’s an appreciation of his rebellion.

The 33% critic score, however, doesn’t surprise me. The dark places Chappelle touched on, were examined through an even darker perspective. There was no way in hell that critics were going to enjoy it. They failed to see the satire in it, or just had a stick a little too close to puncturing their lower intestine.

I’m not going to lie, there were several jokes that fell flat with me. My sense of humor just doesn’t go to those places – but I’m not entirely sure I was the demographic he was speaking to. It’s hard to appreciate a joke you just can’t relate to. That said, I honestly see Sticks and Stones as more of a statement on cancel culture than a comedy special anyway.

It comes down to the fact that if a smaller, less iconic, less admired, comic had made any single one of the comments that Chappelle made – the collective ‘audience’ would seek to ‘cancel’ them. Chappelle knows this, and I think he’s using that knowledge to shine a light on the problem.

Nobody cancels Chappelle. He’s long-since proved to Hollywood and the world that he’s the only one who can say if he’s cancelled. I think this is his reminder to other comedians that they can take the same control.

Cat’s Point of View:
In the spirit of disclosure, I didn’t go into this viewing entirely blind. This is mostly due to the fact that you can’t avoid hearing people talk about this particular show unless you’re not plugged into any sort of media outlet whatsoever. The family-friendly radio talk-show that my daughter & I listen to as I take her to school in the mornings was even talking about this polarizing program.

Frankly, I am on board with what one of the radio personalities said – she watched about 15 minutes of the special and then bailed. Had I not been watching Sticks & Stones for a review, I would have responded similarly. I didn’t like it. I didn’t find it funny for about 98% of the show.

I did, however, find the epilogue entertaining. My score for this production is as ‘high’ as it is because of that alone.

Many of Dave Chappelle’s (Crank Yankers, Chi-Raq, A Star is Born) topics were in poor taste, relatively insensitive, and seemingly delivered for shock value. That being said, I am not going to be one of the many that are railing against the comedian and Netflix. If he wants to use offensive language, make light of serious topics, and flaunt the taboo – that’s his prerogative and right under the First Amendment. He makes a point during the special. If you’re watching the special on Netflix, you ‘clicked his face.’ It’s a choice, and with the thousands of titles available on the streaming service, you can simply choose to avoid the show like the plague if you are offended by it.

Do I agree with his position on all of the topics he discussed? Not particularly. Would I let my daughter watch this with me? Absolutely not. (The TV-MA rating here is a well-warranted hard R equivalent at the very least.) Should it be pulled from Netflix? No. If we start censoring stand-up comedy for controversial content, we might as well try to sanitize all the horror movies, too. A very silly spiral begins from there.

At the same time, he did make a few valid points on topics such as how swift we’ve become, creating a new cultural norm, to go dig up old mistakes and fling them at high-profile public personalities as if they define them in current context. I can’t tell you how glad I am that social media – and really the full-blown internet in general – wasn’t a thing when I was growing up. At the same token, the point is also valid how the public has a bit of a double standard – because not everyone with past or even current issues gets dirt thrown in their face and pitchforked mobs.

I think the title of the special sets it up well. Sticks and Stones, from the old nursery rhyme. It’s both Chappelle’s dare to his audience to give him their worst if they’re offended – because the words will bounce off of him, and a reminder about that very choice I mentioned before – to watch the show at all. He’s throwing some sticks and stones. This special’s audience needs to dodge them, or they’ll feel the hurt. Ultimately, however, this production won’t end the world - in other words, no bones are really being broken here.

Stepping down from my soap-box, all I can say is that while I will not be recommending this program, I can only hope that it provokes some constructive conversation and awareness regarding some of the topics within Chappelle’s content. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 30%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 99%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score None
IMDB Score – 8.6/10
CinemaScore – None

P.S. – Pictures are shown during the credits.

P.S.2 – If you let the credits play out without interruption, a 23 minute-long epilogue will automatically play. In the credits from this post-credit Easter egg special, photos are displayed featuring people discussed during the epilogue.

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5

Movie Trailer:

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