No doubt about it – We The Party is for the teen/college set. It’s an every-color-kid, posse film set against a suburban, Black family with what seems like not many “real” problems.
But, despite the Disney Channel feel of the film, acclaimed actor/director Mario Van Peebles doesn’t spare any of the reality of how teens really interact. They curse, they think about (and have) sex, they plot, lie, steal, have dysfunctional families, fall in and out of puppy love, and party – a lot. This movie has all of the standard ingredients of an older, raunchier film – without a lot of the raunch.
We The Party starts slowly, with the necessary introductions to the main and side characters taking a bit longer than necessary, possibly making the viewer forget the plot in the meantime. There is a little bit of everyone represented: every sub-class of Blacks from ‘hoodrats to homies, heavy-accented Latinos, geeky and Black-acting White boys, and even a gay high schooler. For the sake of convenience in these types of movies, they all somehow end up being in the same class.
Mario Van Peebles plays a knowledge-dropping teacher (think a softer version of Larry Fishburne in Boyz In The Hood), and it’s clear from the start that he will be the moral fiber that threads the young people together when the inevitable trouble comes. His opening scene in the classroom is poignant and on point; while, it’s crazy formulaic, it’s still nice to see a diverse mix of kids onscreen help convey a lesson. (And the Dad shows that exes can co-exist as he works through parenting issues with the timeless Sally Richardson, who plays Mom.)
Malcolm Van Peebles makes a decent showing as character/freestyler, “Obama” – the younger Van Peebles doesn’t have nearly the charisma of his dad, but his good looks and massive head of curly hair make him a standout, nonetheless. His brother Mandela may be the true heir to the family acting ability, as he holds down the lead role of "Hendrix" with relative ease.
On the star power side, rapper YG shows up as “CC,” the hoodied, rapping class thug, with Snoop Dogg as the big, bad older brother. Cue the (stereotypical) trouble.
Truthfully, We The Party's theme is all over the place (the other part of the trouble). Is it about family and friends drama? Is it about getting good enough grades for Prom? Or, is it merely about the daily, adventure-filled lives of teens? It’s all of these, and yet none of them very convincingly.
Possibly the best thing represented in We The Party is the endearing father-son interaction between Mario Van Peebles and his real-life children, which gives the film a warm authenticity in many scenes.
Goodness knows our young people need less “party” and much more of that.
We The Party is available on DVD online and in stores on July 31. Watch a snippet below: