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Movie Review

Malcolm King is a self-made man who's about to sell his marketing company for a cool $25 million. But he's made his fortune by stepping on people so he has no allies, save his irrationally loyal secretary, Miss Gladys, and a dimwitted, buxom "assistant" named Peaches.

When a local television station reports that kidnappers have successfully extorted $5 million from an abducted 10-year-old's parents, the lightbulb switches on for a veritable bevy of intrepid—highly inexperienced—would-be kidnappers. A USA Today article detailing Malcolm's fortune only serves to confirm his ripeness as a target of opportunity.

First in line is King's estranged wife, Renee, with whom he's entangled in bitter divorce proceedings. Next up: Angela, Kim and Brooke, a trio of smart, scantily clad co-workers. Their motivation? King earned Angela's fierce ire by denying her a much-deserved promotion after 10 years of putting up with his harassment. Then there's Corey, a poor dimwit whose ex-con sister is pressuring him to come up with 10 grand—fast. And finally, Malcolm himself thinks staging his own abduction could keep his wife from getting his money.

A chaotic, comedic parade of bungled abductions and mistaken-identity hijinks ensues as each "team" takes its shot at the marketing mogul. As for Malcolm, he believes everything is going exactly as planned ... until he realizes he really has been kidnapped.

Positive Elements

Miss Gladys serves as Malcolm's longsuffering secretary. As a woman who could almost be his mother, she relates to him as such—rebuking him for swearing (even though she does it, too), not allowing him to spend $135,000 on a new Ferrari and looking out for his best interests. She's loyal to him throughout the film (though her motivation for such devotion remains a mystery).

Malcolm's captivity results in a brief reconciliation between him and his estranged wife, Renee. They each forgive the other for committing adultery during their separation.

Spiritual Content

Kim has recently become a Christian, and she tries to relate everything in her life to her faith. Unfortunately, the film doesn't treat her newfound belief as something worthy of respect, but rather as something to be mocked. She quotes Scripture ("If we ask Him for anything according to His will, He hears us"), but her cross necklace often dangles into her exposed cleavage and her left breast sports a new "I Love Jesus" tattoo that she's very proud of. She wears a "Jesus is my homeboy" T-shirt. And she prays that she and her partners in crime will escape the police after breaking the law, believing the Lord will protect them from the consequences of their unlawful decisions ("Forgive those who trespass, as we forgive those who trespass against us," she prays).

Sexual Content

King's Ransom pushes PG-13 sexual boundaries, both visually and in dialogue. Throughout the film, Renee, Angela, Kim and Peaches wear very, very low-cut shirts exposing a lot of cleavage. Several characters, especially Andre (a valet obsessed with impersonating Malcolm), ogle the brain-challenged but amply endowed Peaches. Peaches and Angela make appearances in nothing but lingerie.

Two adulterous relationships take place offscreen, between Malcolm and Peaches, and between Angela and the stuttering young black man who cleans her pool. Andre also has sex with a blindfolded Peaches (who thinks she's with Malcolm), and we hear the sound of straining bedsprings. After she leaves, Andre does a hip-thrusting celebratory dance.

Peaches' brother, Herb (yes, go ahead and chuckle), is arrested for slapping a policeman's rump, and he tells Andre he'd rape him if he weren't his sister's boyfriend. (The implication is that he's become an aggressive homosexual in prison.) We see several commercials for "Boneagra," a Viagra-like product which bears the tagline "Straight up."

In a misguided attempt to prove his manhood, Corey flashes a woman. Visual miscues makes moviegoers think Peaches performs oral sex. Peaches is also the subject of quite a few verbal double entendres. Angela makes quite a show of telling Malcolm he can "kiss" her backside.

Violent Content

The film is full of action-comedy violence. Angela's stuttering lover gets locked in a car trunk. Several characters point guns at each other, but never fire them (or even seem capable of doing so). Herb uses chloroform to knock Andre out (implied, not shown). Corey's ex-con sister chokes him. Corey accidentally fires a nail gun into his foot. Corey and Malcolm get into a fistfight as Malcolm tries to escape his imprisonment. Malcolm and Renee fall down a flight of stairs on top of Corey. Renee bashes a crystal vase over Corey's head. Malcolm and Corey's scuffling lands them on top of Corey's unconscious grandmother.

Corey "goes postal" and assaults a hamburger-wearing mascot and his ex-boss at his former place of employment. He repeatedly hits the mascot, as well as administering elbow-drop wrestling moves to him. And when his ex-boss prays, "God, please don't let me die a virgin," Corey knees him hard between the legs. (The violence in this scene is definitely played for humorous effect.)

Crude or Profane Language

Corey's grandma lets fly with one f-word near the end of the film. Another character starts to say "bulls---," but stops short three-quarters of the way into it. Frequent uses of "a--," "d--n," "b--ch" and "h---" (roughly 50 uses total). At least a half-dozen misuses of God's name.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Corey's deaf, decrepit grandmother does nothing but sit on the couch, smoke, drink whiskey and watch TV. She repeatedly falls asleep with lit cigarettes in her hand, which Corey puts out. Several scenes depict other characters drinking martinis, champagne and mixed drinks. Once, Renee grabs Grandma's whiskey from her. Renee also smokes a cigarette, and Andre smokes a cigar and drinks while in a bubble bath.

Other Negative Elements

Malcolm tells Corey, "You ain't got no balls," then proceeds to use a number of very graphic adjectives to describe his own. Andre repeatedly lies to women about his identity in order to seduce them. Many characters obsessively play the lottery.


In the 1970s, a new genre of film made by African-Americans for African-Americans came to be known as blacksploitation. These movies seized upon common racial stereotypes and often grossly exaggerated them in the name of comedy. During the decades to follow, blacksploitation flicks have served as a kind of inside cultural joke. But many critics—black and white—have wondered whether such movies succeeded only at reinforcing stereotypes instead of effectively lampooning them.

King's Ransom unquestionably belongs in this genre. Most of its tired gags depend on racially oriented winks and nods, many of which aren't very friendly. Peaches is the most obvious caricature, a brain-free bimbo whose only purpose is to serve as eye candy and sexual gratification for men. Angela's stuttering yet virile pool boy is another traditional stereotype. Miss Gladys tries to influence Malcolm, but mostly she's a "see no evil" enabler. The black women who try to kidnap Malcolm wear Jesse Jackson, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice masks while doing so. (On the other side of the racial divide—and this film makes sure it is a divide—inept Caucasian cops eat doughnuts, drink coffee and talk about CSI.)

Not only is all of this stuff not funny and potentially damaging culturally, but in King's Ransom it's also exceedingly dull. Yahoo! film critic Nell Minow wrote, "I looked at the ceiling, not casting my eyes heavenward for assistance but trying to find something more interesting to look at than what was on the screen. The ceiling won."

So if you're tempted to pay a king's ransom (the going rate at most multiplexes these days) to watch this movie, use your money to buy a clue instead. Stay home and stare at the ceiling. I guarantee it will be time better spent.

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Anthony Anderson as Malcolm King; Kellita Smith as Renee King; Loretta Devine as Miss Gladys; Regina Hall as Peaches; Nicole Ari Parker as Angela; Leila Arcieri as Kim; Brooke D'Orsay as Brooke; Jay Mohr as Corey; Charles Q. Murphy as Herb; Donald Faison as Andre


Jeff Byrd ( )


New Line Cinema



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Adam R. Holz

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