Baby Boy
dir. John Singleton
Now Playing
Various Theaters

Baby Boy, John Singleton's companion film to Boyz N the Hood, follows a single male character, Jody (played by the sexy-ass model Tyrese Gibson), through his struggle to grow up and become A Real Man.

That's the plot.

Beyond that, it gets kind of confusing. There's all this weird imagery through the whole movie, like the grown-up Jody writhing around in amniotic fluid and this nasty fake womb that looks like the leftover water from my eighth grade sea monkeys. And everyone acts like babies--thumb-sucking, whining, acting out--because the people in this hood (the same one from Boyz N the Hood, but ten years later and with different characters) are trying to figure out how to be responsible for themselves and their children.

But it's not a bad movie. Singleton himself has grown up a lot since Boyz, and even though Jody treats the women around him like shit (he lives with his mom, cheats on his girlfriend/mother of his child with the OTHER mother of his child, and says stuff approximating, "Make me a pot pie, bizz-natch"), he's got a good heart. Similar to Boyz' Tre, Jody doesn't want to turn to thuggery. (And, believe me, a moment with grody, creepy co-star Snoop Dogg would turn anyone away from that lifestyle.) He's a good kid dealing with the sort of black male displacement Alice Walker talks about in her novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland. Walker illustrates that African American men have been so emasculated from the beginning of their residence in this racist country, there's a constant state of disrepair stamped on their collective subconscious. You can see that in Jody, when he's ordering his lady to cook him breakfast and clean up the house, just to feel like he's got some control over his situation.

Maybe it's because the L.A. gangsta lifestyle has already experienced its peak, but Baby Boy is far less violent than Boyz N the Hood. However, when Jody and his friend (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.'s brother, Omar) pull out their guns, it's as unflinching as if you were watching them pull out a toothbrush. Baby Boy has a healthy dose of the feeling of futility Singleton's so good at creating, but there's still a lot of hope, regardless of its tendency toward the melodramatic and baffling. Though Baby Boy isn't as explosive as Boyz was in 1991, it's a sweet, sort-of realistic film about city-living African Americans, and there are far too few of its kind.