Keke McQueen is right on the verge of her dream.
She’s worked hard, and with her family’s support she graduated Harvard and landed the perfect job with publishing powerhouse Crystal Maitland.
In fact, there’s only one little thing that’s keeping Keke from grabbing that proverbial brass ring with glee: Sommer Sizzle.
Sommer Sizzle is a neighborhood block party—named after Keke’s GramJam, Janice Sommers, who has organized it for years. But it’s falling apart this year. GramJam is having some cognitive issues, and everybody has just realized that she’s just not up to it anymore. But since it’s the block party’s 40th anniversary, she can’t quite let it go either.
GramJam turns to Keke and asks her to save the day. But that’ll be no easy task. The celebration is only five days away and there’s no DJ, no booths, no sponsors, no local permit, no, well, money. And to top it all off, Keke is supposed to be heading off to start her new job in Atlanta.
But GramJam asked her. And GramJam is the essence of family as far as Keke is concerned. So, she really has no other choice. She’ll do whatever is necessary to make it all work.
That means that Keke McQueen is right on the verge of … her worst nightmare.
As mentioned, Keke selflessly puts her own wishes aside to help her ailing grandmother. “She may not be all there, but she’s still here” Keke adamantly insists. And eventually that sacrifice motivates several family members to draw closer, apologize for past wrongs and express their love for one another. In addition, Keke’s ex-boyfriend apologizes for causing their breakup before Keke headed off to college, and the two rekindle their estranged relationship.
Despite some uncomfortable complications during the Sommer Sizzle, the neighbors grow closer, too. And they verbally declare their desire to support their community and work harder at protecting the vulnerable but beloved elders in their midst. In fact, the community (and an outside individual) rally together to expose someone who is abusing those frail individuals.
GramJam wears a “Not Today Satan” emblazoned T-shirt. And she mixes up Christian slogans sometimes, such as when she says: “When Jesus closes a door, God’s locked you in the bathroom.”
Keke’s dad tries to defuse an argument at the dinner table by pointing to the barbeque they’re eating and proclaiming it the equivalent of “God’s own slow-cooked cow.” A guy with a gambling problem declares that he only plays “what Jesus wants me to play.”
GramJam embarrasses family around her by talking about a man who she once had an affair with, and who gave her “special kisses” on a certain part of her body. Later, she reunites with this man and opens her shirt to jiggle her bra-clad breasts in his direction. And they both agree (using crass terminology) that breasts are important.
Later, GramJam throws around running jokes about someone’s crotch area. Another woman talks about a different “nice” part of the man’s anatomy. Will asks Keke to think about sticking around town because he misses her “vibe.” And she winkingly replies: “Oh, it’s my vibe you miss?”
Will massages Keke’s shoulders and back with CBD oil to which she audibly moans, giving someone the impression that they’re having sex behind a curtained area. Another woman is massaged with the oil and acts high from it. Will strips off his shirt to reveal his ripped torso at the dunking booth, and several women coo about his physique.
Crude jokes about body parts, sex and condoms are tossed out on several occasions.
We see a few comedy-focused tumbling thumps such as someone falling from a ladder when a car accidentally backs into a stage. The elderly driver is hospitalized. Participants splash into a dunking tank.
One f-word and a dozen s-words are joined by nine uses of “d–n” and a handful of uses each of the words “b–ch,” “h—” and “a–.” God’s name is misused 10 times.
People drink martinis and wine at a bar. Others drink champagne mimosas at breakfast. And some people play cards with a bottle of vodka and some shot glasses sitting nearby.
Will wears a sweatshirt that sports a brewing company’s logo.
When GramJam’s worsening medical condition is discovered, she’s given a variety of new meds. Several mentions are made about how her steroid shots are impacting her.
There are numerous racial gibes in the mix. And several character moments focus on the foolishness, racial appropriation and the open maliciousness of clownish white people.
A guy purposely takes advantage of the elderly for personal profit. A couple gags are tossed out about a farting old man who needs to have his adult diaper changed.
Today’s comedies have a funny problem: they’re not very funny. These days comedies tend to rely on all things crass and tawdry instead of working for something truly humorous.
Block Party isn’t nearly as nasty as many pics of that stripe, but it still shimmies about with racial gags, fleshy giggles and generally crude guffaws. It’s kinda like a just-OK Hallmark film that’s been sprinkled with sordid nonsense in order to avoid a PG rating.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. By movie’s end we see some nice moments when family members express their emotions and love, and people call for a strong supportive community and protection of the elderly. That’s the sort of stuff that neighborhood block parties are supposed to be built on.
It’s too bad, then, that the filmmakers didn’t know how to get to that point with a well-crafted and chuckle-worthy script.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.