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Published: Monday, 7/9/2001

Pootie Tang: 'Chris Rock Show' spinoff is full of silly fun


The title character in Pootie Tang was created for HBO's Chris Rock Show, and like most spinoffs of skit comedy, he makes a pretty thin feature-film subject. But the silliness is so contagious that it doesn't matter.

When it comes to Lance Crouther's unintelligible smoothie, I'm siding with another character when she exclaims, "Ya skinny wunnerful man!"

Except for his one long braid and poster-boy physique, Pootie Tang - a vulgarism made acceptable (barely) as an example of his deliberately mangled syntax -looks frankly nerdy, and accepts acclaim for his tacitly understood sexual prowess with something that could either be quiet dignity or a fog.

Pootie, a freelance crime fighter and pop Everyman, is catnip to the ladies, a martial arts wizard, and a not half-bad pottery maker.

He speaks his own inimitable lingo which, in the context of the film, requires no translation - "I'm gonna sine your pitty on the runny kine. Sipi-tai!"

It's an inverse of the In Living Color routine in which the egregiously self-taught jailbird uses actual words, but makes no sense.

Pootie's daddy (Chris Rock in flashbacks) kept him in line with the belt buckle, and to this day, Pootie can give a whoopin' and rebuckle faster than a gunslinger at high noon.

His reflexes are so good he can dodge gunfire. Even his hair repels bullets.

Among the movie's goofy charms is that trouble begins over Pootie's series of public service announcements warning kids against blind consumerism, which is exactly how the evil Dick Lecter (Robert Vaughn) makes a living.

With the aid of a sexual predator (Jennifer Coolidge), who steals Pootie's testosterone-boosting belt, Lecter turns Pootie from a consumer-rights champion to a pitchman for fat-laden breakfast cereals.

Louis C.K., who created the character with Crouther, writes and directs with a cheerful nod toward the look and character staples of the blaxploitation era.

Standup comic Wanda Sykes plays Biggie Shorty, a pal who is determined to make Pootie her own.

Sykes, the grumbling, two-faced housekeeper of Down to Earth, is a treasure. Give this woman her own show!

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