Mario Van Peebles, and a good chunk of his family for that matter, have made a film that makes an earnest and respectable attempt to resonate with the teenage youth of today, specifically those who reside in an urban location, yet are not handicapped by their limitations. We the Party has many different appeals, whether it be its flashy production values, its unassuming cinematography, its cast of young, ambitious actors, or just the film that engulfs all of these aspects. Unfortunately, everything it does can only be taken so far or until monotony weasels itself into the mind.
This is likely a film that will resonate with its core audience, teens that seem to have it all but struggle to balance it out effectively, yet will likely bewilder audiences walking in with an attempt to try and have a personal connection or even just trying to simply find a picture that is above average. The plot concerns a group of teenagers set in a diverse Los Angeles high school, where prom, being unique, being noticed, fitting in, sex, bullies, and personality are the things that come to matter and are important in life. Our main character is Hendrix Sutton (Mandela Van Peebles), a charming high school senior with a lot on his mind, concerning girls, cars, and having an enormous house party. He is getting solid grades, mainly because his father (Mario) keeps him gridlocked on the road to success and devotion by implementing the "tough love" principle in his life.
Hendrix is friends with a huge group of people that are into the same kind of things, and his plan is to get together with them all, try to have sex before prom, and throw the ultimate house party with music, women, and dancing. Hendrix becomes deeply involved with Cheyenne (Simone Battle), who is self-aware and intelligent, and the two of them seem to have a mutual connection shared by many high schoolers today.
This could've instantly spawned a film of true intelligence and substantial relevance, and I was truly engaged during the picture's first act. Then after about a half hour or so, the film took a dive into the redundancy and the blandness of a mainstream music video. Shots are stockpiled on one another with gyrating teenagers, teenagers making decisions, and teenagers just having a good time dancing. It also doesn't help that the unusual, unnecessary "comic book" style of editing is the route the filmmakers used to showcase many of these shots. And not to mention, rarely do we discover any characteristics of these five young men other than they like to party and they are desperately seeking action.
It seems every time We the Party tries to go into the idea of human interest or some considerable depth with its characters, it is caught up with heavy handed moralizing, unsatisfying dialog, and blinding energy from its dance sequence. This is the second major "party" film I've seen in 2012, and while I can say it isn't perfect, it is still light years ahead of the ridiculous Project X.
It is pretty apparent the film wants to be on the same level as, say, other urban party films such as the charming and witty House Party - a film that was elevated by its two charismatic actors and the fact it wasn't just about the party, but the humans that inhabited it and how we came to know many of them. We the Party has one fantastic scene and that is a roughly eight minute monologue given by Mario Van Peebles, who is teaching his class about how intelligence is weighed in society and how people now measure your worth by what you have rather than what you say. Let's hope the youth of today doesn't tune out these valuable words while they are impatiently waiting for a rockin' party.
Starring: Mario Van Peebles, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Michael Jai White, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, and Snoop Dogg. Directed by: Mario Van Peebles.