Lottery Ticket (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
Kevin Carson (rapper Bow Wow) says he doesn't play the lottery, because it's "designed to keep poor people poor by selling them false dreams." So why, then, does he buy a lottery ticket? Because he couldn't win $370 million if he hadn't, and there would be no movie if he didn't.
This inexplicable bit of screenwriting from newbies Erik White (who also directs) and Abdul Williams might seem bizarre in this crass comedy, but I suspect Kevin's approach to the dollar-and-a-dream philosophy is meant to, er, keep it real. Or, perhaps, provide enough wish fulfillment to keep the American underclass from revolting for another week.
It's not just some silly ninny who wins, of course, like Kevin's grandma (Loretta Devine), even though she plays each week and appears to believe that Jesus wants her to win. It's honest, hard-working, clean-cut Kevin, who irons his shoelaces before his shift at Foot Locker and is putting off his dreams of design school — he wants to create sneakers — because he's taking care of his grandmother.
See? You too, as a hardworking American, could win $370 million if only you took a chance. And you probably wouldn't have to deal with the crap that Kevin does when Grandma can't keep her mouth shut. Suddenly the entire population of the Atlanta projects, where they live, is descending upon Kevin. For, in an unlikely calendar confluence, Kevin wins at the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend — meaning he has three long days to hold onto the valuable ticket and not get tricked or murdered while he waits for the lottery office to open again.
And yet, despite the fact that Kevin is smart and creative enough for design school, his best idea for protecting the ticket is carrying it around in his wallet. Perhaps White and Williams intend it as sly commentary on the breakdown of the African-American community that Kevin can trust no one to safeguard his ticket — not a neighborhood lawyer or community police office, not a priest or a preacher — but I don't think so. Perhaps it wouldn't occur to a poor kid from the projects to open a safe-deposit box, and perhaps the banks are already closed. Still, Kevin could have, I dunno, FedEx-ed the ticket to himself.
But again, if Kevin were smart, there would be no movie ... and no excuse for White and Williams to wallow in the worst sorts of stereotypes for reasons only they know. Kevin is threatened with grievous bodily harm by Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a generic thug who terrorizes the projects. Kevin is threatened with baby-daddyhood by hottie Nikki (Teairra Mari), because "a bitch has gotta get paid." Hilarious.
These aren't people; they're cartoons, including Kevin's idiot best friend Benny (Brandon T. Jackson), his perfect and pretty girl friend who's not a girlfriend, Stacie (Naturi Naughton), and Mr. Washington (Ice Cube), the recluse of the projects who turns out to be as wise and helpful as Yoda when the moment demands it. How they behave goes beyond cartoonish, from Kevin's consumeristic orgy at the mall, where he buys $5,000 sneakers, to the fancy-schmancy restaurant outing where Kevin's friends steal silverware. Hey, that's what poor people do, even when they've got money. And at the finale, violence solves all of Kevin's problems.
I'm still presuming Lottery Ticket may have been intended to indulge some sort of wish fulfilment fantasy, but what it ends up becoming instead is a movie you wouldn't wish even on your worst enemy.