Spike Lee dedicates this angry, fitfully provocative mess (2000) to Budd Schulberg, apparently thinking of A Face in the Crowd, and includes a clumsy hommage to Network, another hysterical picture about television. This one focuses on a black Ivy League TV writer (Damon Wayans) who produces a minstrel show called Mantan with black performers in blackface. Unfortunately, what purports to be a satire about bad television is bad television itself, complete with cruddy sound and image and broad, out-of-control acting. One would like to think that Lee is reflecting on his own occasional duplicity with the mass audience (his insulting use of Muzak — worse than ever here–  to tell viewers how to feel, or the gross simplifications of Malcolm X). But this is basically sloppy, all-over-the-map filmmaking with few hints of self-criticism and few genuine laughs. R, 135 min. (JR)

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