Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1988. Columbia Pictures Corporation, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks. Screenplay by Spike Lee. Cinematography by Ernest R. Dickerson. Produced by Spike Lee. Music by Bill Lee. Production Design by Wynn Thomas. Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter. Film Editing by Barry Alexander Brown.
Spike Lee’s passionate touch is all over this enjoyable musical, even though the screenplay itself isn’t quite as tidy as it should be. The action concerns the goings-on at a prestigious American college for black students whose student body is being torn apart by various issues. The girls on campus are divided between wanna-be white girls (with their straightened hair) and Nubian goddesses who are proud of their more diverse hair styles and often darker skin. The men, meanwhile, are caught in sorority wars in a multicharacter piece that, while not as compelling as it should be, is a smart allegory for the politics of infighting that often affect (and prevent the furthered political success of) minority communities. The acting is superb, as is the musical score by Lee’s father Bill, who contributes the background score as well as some kick-ass production numbers. Laurence Fishburne is a standout as a student who refuses to sign up to the conformist attitudes of the sororities, while Lee plays his more impressionable cousin who will do anything to pledge.