aka: South Central L.A.
Director: John Singleton
Starring: Tyrese Gibson, Taraji P. Henson, Omar Gooding, Ving Rhames, Snoop Dogg
Jody is a 20+ year old male who has fathered two children by two different girlfriends and still lives unemployed at his mama’s house. He is still very immature and has yet to find his true path in life. Instead of seeking a profession, he hustles stolen merchandize for a quick buck which he ends up using on temporarily pleasures.
His comfortable life starts to change when one of his baby mama’s Yvette start to demand more of him, while at the same time a new man moves in with his mum. Jody now has to wake up and start to act like a grown man and be responsible for his life, but that does not come easy for a guy who is still a child at heart and mind.
John Singleton returns after the big production of Shaft to tell another tale from the inner city of Los Angeles. This time however, he is not making any excuses for the simple minded young people of the ghetto, but rather critique those who does not seem to be slightly interested in working for prosper out of their surroundings. It is however not done harshly, but in a rather soft way with some comedy attached around it. The message does get kind of lost after a while and ends up being blurry in the end.
Some of that might be because the film was supposed to have went into production in 1996 and star the legendary rapper Tupac Shakur, who sadly died and put the production on hold. There is a big mural painting of Tupac in Jody’s bedroom as a touching tribute to the fallen star, and perhaps it’s also there as a sign on what type of influence he had over people such as Jody.
Jody is here instead played by Tyrese Gibson in his first starring film role. Tyrese was first known as a model and R&B singer before finally being able to hit the big screen with this part. He is able to balance the childlike qualities or disadvantages of the character very well and keeps Jody to still be a very realistic persona. He also has a very likable quality to him, making us still want to watch him and hope he starts to behave right instead of resolving to hating him for his egocentric actions.
All of the supporting performers bring their characters to life. Ving Rhames is excellent as Jody’s new stepfather Melvin, an ex-con who has now turned his life around and wants to get Jody’s attention by telling him that he does not need to go through the same path that he did. Taraji P. Henson is great as Jody’s current main love interest Yvette, a naive young woman who does need some growing up herself.
Baby Boy is an interesting film and better yet, it is an enjoyable film. The message that Singleton is trying to give here does get blurred before the end and the story could have been tighten up a little more, but the actors are all fun to watch and the subtle comedy makes it a fun experience.