A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"B.A.P.S.'' is jaw-droppingly bad, a movie so misconceived I wonder why anyone involved wanted to make it. As a vehicle for the talents of director Robert Townsend and actors Halle Berry and Martin Landau, it represents a grave miscalculation; I hope they quickly put it behind them.
The title stands for "Black American Princesses.'' Its two heroines are more like tacky Cinderellas. Berry and Natalie Desselle play vulgar and garish homegirls from Decatur, Ga., whose artificial nails are 8 inches long, whose gold teeth sparkle, and whose hairpieces are piled so high on their heads that the concept passes beyond satire and into cruelty.
There is a thin line between satire and offensiveness, and this crosses it. Its portraits of these two working-class black women have been painted with snobbery and scorn. The actresses don't inhabit the caricatures with conviction. The result is a hurtful stereotype, because the comedy doesn't work to redeem it.
We should sense some affection for them from the filmmakers, but we don't--not until they receive a magic Hollywood makeover in the later scenes of the movie, and miraculously lose their gold teeth. The movie invites us to laugh at them, not with them, but that's a moot point since the audience I joined did not laugh at all, except incredulously.