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Eclectic DVD presents
Jive Chicken (2002)

Street Preacher: My Caucasian brother... A-salaam Alaikum.
Health Inspector: Yeah, I like them Lakers too.

- Omar Ackbar, Alex Cohen

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 04, 2002

Stars: Marvin Thomas
Other Stars: Mr. Tan, Shang, T-Lo, Lopez
Director: Bervick J. Deculus, Omar Akbar

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, sexual dialogue)
Run Time: 01h:27m:58s
Release Date: November 05, 2002
UPC: 655690690064
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+D+C- C-

DVD Review

The creative team behind Jive Chicken apparently expended all their clever humor in titling their film. Because the movie? Not all that clever. Or funny. Or original. Marvin Thomas, a stand-up comedian and a Def Comedy Jam staple, headlines this extremely low-budgeted and amateurish comedy from writer-directors Omar Ackbar and Bervick Deculus. Produced and released independently, it's been released on DVD by Eclectic, a great supporter of this kind of "underground" entertainment. It's one thing to make allowances for horrible production values when watching an intelligent, thought-provoking, or at least unique independent production; Jive Chicken is just as tired as many recent "urban comedies" (The Wash, All About the Benjamins), and at least those films had a shiny, studio-funded sheen to go along with their cruddy scripts.

The set-up isn't all that bad, actually. Chip Watkins (Marvin Thomas) has just taken over the Jive Chicken, a take-out restaurant that sells hot wings (and only hot-wings... nutritious!), and absorbed the former owner's 15 grand in debts. Now he's got to figure out how to turn a profit before he loses his life savings. That's not going to be easy, as he has to deal with an inept staff and a bunch of screwy customers (not to mention the corrupt health inspector, who expects to be paid off in precious, precious wings).

The characters are all stock and one-note. There's the militant street preacher, the nerdy white guy (mercilessly mocked for being so dang un-black), the lazy loudmouth, and the nebbishe uptight butt kisser. Oh, and the bank teller, who does the "black guy trying to be white" shtick that we all know and love. So, basically, these are all characters that you'd expect to pop up in your average episode of Martin. What little humor exists is crushed by the achingly slow pace. Jokes take so long to set up, by the time the punch line comes I've forgotten why I'm supposed to be laughing (though I did like the menu item that fluctuates based on "stock," as in "how many wings are in stock").

Akbar and Deculus are clearly new to directing, and they perform adequately, but do their flat script no favors, shooting scenes with static camera, plunked down like this is a school play. The actors aren't exactly memorable, either. I sort of get the idea that they are all friends of the directors, or they just happened to be around that day, or something. But they do bring a lot of enthusiasm to their roles, and the whole production has a rough-around-the-edges charm that makes it hard to hate. I wouldn't recommend Jive Chicken, but I do support the release of such obscure material on DVD. And I still think the title is pretty funny.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot on video, this DVD probably preserves the source material quite well, but the transfer nevertheless highlights the extreme limitations of shooting on video (and not even digital video at that). Colors are washed out and tend to smear, detail is very poor, and blacks look quite muddy. Some scenes look better than others (the "flashbacks" shot in black & white aren't bad at all, as far as video footage goes), but the source material is inconsistent, and frequently looks pretty bad. It's not pretty, but certainly still watchable, and I can't fault Eclectic for the way the film looks—there's only so much you can do to improve such a low-budget production.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack is unimpressive but serviceable. Dialogue sounds a bit muffled or flat at times, but it is, at least, always understandable. The mix sounds rather harsh and is lacking in fidelity and dynamic ranger (extremely noticeable in the reproduction of the score). I've certainly heard worse, but this is far from an impressive mono mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Tha Liks music video
  2. 8 Minute Madd Marv Stand-up Comedy Routine
  3. Hip Hop Pop Locking Dance Battle
Extras Review: Eclectic has included a few unique extras that mesh with the feature quite well. The back of the box promises 15 minutes of stand-up from Marvin "Madd Marv" Thomas, but only around eight minutes are included. Marv's routine is fairly typical and only sporadically amusing (he spends about five minutes repeating the same stripper joke, and throws in some "white people so lame..." material for good measure). The footage looks fairly clear, but the audio is quite difficult to make out.

Also included is a music video from hip hop group Tha Links and eight minutes of "Pop Locking," a hip hop dance style akin to break dancing. The performers compete in a "dance off" in the second segment; their moves making me feel even whiter than I am.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Jive Chicken is a pretty skinless comedy that's not without its moments. You can pluck out a good scene here or there, but the overall story doesn't hold together, and the rough direction manages to... fowl... things up, sapping the energy out of most every scene. Fans of films like Friday and The Wash might find more to like, and are encouraged to rent it for a couple of bawks.


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