“King’s Ransom”

By Jessie Coello

Look what Hollywood cooked up this time: It’s an old recipe we’ve tasted before – and an unsavory one at that.

Take the recent remake “Guess Who?” Instead of a Caucasian family trying to accept a future African-American son-in-law, Bernie Mac is trying to accept Ashton Kutcher as his daughter’s boyfriend without strangling him (a challenging task indeed).

Those with pop-culture knowledge may recall the Cedric the Entertainer stinker “Johnson Family Vacation.” No plot explanation is necessary, just one quip: Anybody seen where they hid the Griswalds?

The trend – or recipe for disaster, if you will – calls for two ingredients: an African-American actor, actress and/or cast and the old plot of another classic comedy.

Next, simply adapt some cultural stereotypes within the script dialogue – but nothing too offensive or entertaining. We don’t want our audience to have the chance to think.

Set for 95 minutes (any longer and you’ll suffer) and serve immediately because such cinema is going to video real quick.

“King’s Ransom” is about cold-blooded tycoon Malcolm King (Anthony Anderson) of the prosperous King Enterprises, whose product is never explained (one of many annoying plot faults).

Entangled in a bitter divorce with his spiteful wife Renee (Kellita Smith), Malcolm dreams up a cockeyed scheme with secretary/personal hussy Peaches (Regina Hall) to kidnap himself and pocket the ransom Renee will pay.

The problem is, Renee and a whole slew of Malcolm’s shady associates are planning a similar scheme. King Enterprises associate Angela Drake (Nicole Ari Parker) was just passed up for a promotion for Peaches and down-and-out Corey (Jay Mohr) needs to raise $10,000 for his sister.

But when Peaches’ brother Herb (Charlie Murphy) mistakenly kidnaps the wrong person, everything spins out of control. Madness and hilarity are meant to ensue.

But wait, what’s that you say? Sounds like another movie?

You’re right! It’s a twist on the high-camp caper “Ruthless People,” which features a similar kidnap scheme gone awry.

But in “Ransom,” there’s an African-American ensemble clamoring for cash instead of a Caucasian one – which would be great if it wasn’t an obtuse perpetuation of stereotypes: Malcolm orders his kung pao chicken without vegetables and his wife is a gold-digger.

It’s about time minority actors started to get a piece of the movie pie. Why can’t there be a comic lead who is rich and not white, with no strings attached?

When made well, movies that present a minority who’s not included in the picture as the “token” non-Caucasian but instead as an “Every-person” can make for a witty new flavor of comedy.

Take the funny stoner flick “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” about buddies who go on a crazy adventure a la “Dude, Where’s My Car.” The movies share a similar concept, but the movie is funny because its characters see humor in their struggle to not be typecast.

“King’s Ransom” should go into the garbage -and Hollywood needs to go back to the kitchen.