DVD Review: Frankenhood Falls Flat

I had high hopes for newcomer director Blaxwell Smart's Frankenstein parody Frankenhood. Not in the esthetic sense, but the Tommy Chong sense: hopes that if its target audience of stoned young men could only get stoned enough, they would laugh themselves still sillier (and decide to pass out on the couch instead of driving around town imperiling passersby).

It's got Charlie Murphy, a sidekick on Dave Chappelle's sketch comedy show who kind of resembles his brother, Eddie Murphy, and played a cabdriver in Night at the Museum and Floyd the Dog's voice in Norbit. Here he's Franklin, the half-mad coworker of best buddies Motown (DeRay Davis) and Darius (Jasper Redd of Totally Baked: A Pot-U-Mentary) at the town morgue on the graveyard shift. Franklin takes the graveyard part literally, using Darius and Motown's Gremlin battery to jump-start a corpse (Bob "The Beast" Sapp, a former heavyweight champ and University of Washington Husky, Chicago Bear, and Minnesota Viking who's bigger than a husky, a bear, and a Viking put together).

The corpse, christened Frankie, is a secret weapon in the guys' get-rich-quick scheme, winning a street basketball championship against much bigger, tougher guys and pocketing the $25,000 prize. Even though 6-foot-4-and-a-half NFL vet Sapp isn't exactly basketball material, he comes in handy in the manner of Will Sampson's Chief, the towering Indian on Jack Nicholson's crazyhouse team in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, directed by Milos Forman, who inspired Dan Aykroyd's Wild and Crazy Guy.

It could've been wild and crazy fun. Sapp did OK as one of Adam Sandler's prison football players in The Longest Yard. DeRay Davis is a great-looking stand-up comic with a winning manner and creditable credits in the Barberbshop movies, License to Wed, Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro, and Entourage. He's got chemistry with Redd. The Frankenstein story is sturdy material for any kind of comedy you want to write.

Sadly, Frankenhood was written by Dan Filie, who is to screenwriting what swine flu is to a Mexican vacation. He clears a room. Here's about the funniest joke in the film: To pick up girls at a club, Darius and Motown tell them they're astronaut trainees. How come they're not real astronauts? "You think the guvmint wants us up there with all they white spacewomen?" Nothing is funny in the movie. No scene has any point or shape, and the guys drift from morgue to club to streetball court at random, muttering nothing worth remembering.

I'm all for the dumb joke. Frankenstein fart gags, weed scenes, Darius fantasizing he's in a limo making blubbing noises between a cutie's implanted breasts -- no problem, I'm game. When Darius pitches peanuts into a pretty girl's mouth at the bar, going, "Sit. Stay. Good girl!" I'm not offended. I'm just not laughing. In this attempt to reanimate Frankenstein, the creature just lies flat on the slab, dead on arrival.

The extras are a few deleted scenes -- some indistinguishable from the corresponding scene in the film, some (incredibly) worse -- and the most cheesily pathetic making-of documentary you ever saw. They did their own stunts, they brag. They jumped over the couch!

The Lionsgate studio has released some great stuff on a budget, but Frankenhood, the first movie from Anvil Studios, is not among them. "On cable and in syndication, where Jeremy [Littman] and I honed our producing skills, you don't get the $2 million-plus per episode the network shows have," Littman's Anvil partner Morgan Gendel told Variety. "But we learned that with a good story, a good cast, and the know-how to work efficiently, you can put a lot on screen for a price tag that makes sense." Whatever they spent on Frankenhood, it was two cents too many.

Frankenhood is available now from Lionsgate.