Saturday, November 28, 2015

Petey Wheatstraw (1977)

          Calling the supernatural comedy Petey Wheatstraw the best of Rudy Ray Moore’s ’70s films requires more than a few qualifiers. First, all of Moore’s ’70s movies are terrible, suffering from amateurish production, bad acting, excessive crudeness, and general stupidity. Second, Moore’s appeal lives in his over-the-top vulgarity, and Petey Wheatstraw is comparatively tame. Third, the sole reason why Petey Wheatstraw surpasses other Moore pictures is that Petey Wheatstraw tells a somewhat coherent story in a manner that vaguely resembles conventional entertainment. So perhaps it’s more accurate to say that this flick is a good entry point for those unfamiliar with Moore’s singular screen presence. A cult-favorite standup whose routine included boasting, rhyming, smut, trash talk, and pimptastic fashion, Moore was an early architect of elements that later embedded themselves into hiphop culture. That’s why his pictures are considered significant touchstones within the blaxploitation genre. In Petey Wheatstraw, Moore stars as a comedian named Petey, who is murdered by a competitor and then approached in the afterlife by Lucipher (G. Tito Shaw) with a proposition. If Petey agrees to marry Lucipher’s ugly daughter, Petey will be resurrected with special powers so he can avenge himself. Hence the film’s unofficial full title, Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil’s Son-in-LawAfter accepting Lucipher’s offer, Petey returns to Earth armed with the devil’s enchanted pimp cane and smites various bad guys. Then he decides to renege on his bargain, leading to a showdown with the Lord of the Underworld.
          Every frame of Petey Wheatstraw is ridiculous. During a prologue depicting Petey’s birth, his mother delivers a watermelon before she delivers the baby, who emerges as a five-year-old boy eager to smack everyone in sight. As a teenager, Petey endures abuse from bullies until he encounters an old man who teaches him kung fu. Lucipher entices Petey by providing a harem full of demon women with horns on their heads, all of whom Petey exhausts with his remarkable stamina. And yet the most absurd scene is probably the one that's meant to be tragic—after a little boy is caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting, much wailing and weeping ensues. What the hell does a cheap ploy for audience sympathy have to do with a rhyming super-stud turning Satan into a chump? As with all of Moore’s atrocious movies, it’s best to just go along for the rambunctious ride and marvel at the sheer idiocy onscreen.

Petey Wheatsraw: LAME

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