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Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla DVD Review

Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla (2014) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla
Special & DVD Details

Original Airdate: June 14, 2014 (Theatrical Release: August 22, 2013) / Running Time: 90 Minutes (Extended) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-14 on air)

Writers: Sinbad, Paige Bryan, Royce Adkins / Director: Jay Chapman / Executive Producers: Sinbad, Brian Volk-Weiss

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: June 17, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $16.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video and MP3

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I appear to belong to a dying breed: people who would openly and proudly declare themselves to be Sinbad fans.
Seemingly one of the most popular comedians around in the early 1990s, Sinbad rose from a supporting role on "The Cosby Show" college spin-off "A Different World" to a star of theatrical films. A number of these -- including 1996's First Kid and Jingle All the Way -- are not very good, though I desperately want to like them for their talent, filming locations, and utter '90sness. One of Sinbad's films, though, is outstanding in my book. Houseguest, a comedy co-starring Phil Hartman released on the first Friday of 1995, was trashed by critics and not really loved by audiences. But I maintain it is one of that decade's most underrated and hilarious comedies, a feel-good outing that soars despite its reliance on such conventions as assumed identity, an outsider bettering a family, multiple montages, and a man on the run from the mob.

My appreciation for Houseguest, stemming from an unusually memorable library VHS rental in the fall of 1999 and continuing through an excited two-week pre-street date find of the DVD three years later, is something I refuse to surrender. I continue to quote it, cite it every time a movie kind of reminds me of it, and feel the urge to revisit it no fewer than four times a year (though admittedly have been able to go at least a few years without watching it). I doubt I would be able to compile a list of 50 all-time favorite movies without including it.

Needless to say, my love of that film, buoyed in part by the general public's unawareness of it, forever secures Sinbad a soft spot in my heart. Sadly, the mononymous comic's career has not persisted as either he or I would like. Possibly his biggest brush with fame this century: a death hoax begun on Wikipedia that no longer features in his entry on the online encyclopedia. The prevailing perception of Sinbad, is like that of Mr. T or Yakov Smirnoff, an entertainer whose time has passed. Lately, all people seem to think Sinbad is suited for are a nostalgic name drop, a pitifully fake, short-lived reality television series (on WE tv, formerly Women's Entertainment, of all places), and a guest spot as an animated version of himself on "American Dad!"

Though thoroughly disappointed by his last Comedy Central special, 2010's Where U Been?, I wasn't going to deny Sinbad another chance to make me laugh. That comes in Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla, a 90-minute special that makes its cable premiere on June 14th, three days before hitting DVD and ten months after being shown theatrically for a single night on nearly 500 screens.

Sinbad is back in "Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla", a 90-minute stand-up comedy special premiering on Comedy Central and DVD this month.

Broadcast but not produced by the cable channel, Make Me Wanna Holla begins with very little promise. A loosely-edited taped backstage opening finds Sinbad in his simple dressing room, talking to Memphis Red, his musician alter ego. Memphis' self-censored A-bombs (as in "Kiss my a--") get Sinbad to mention how he could have made a lot of money if he resorted to swearing,
a lame note on which to start a special whose rear cover declares it "An Event for the Whole Family."

Things don't immediately improve as Sinbad/Memphis take the stage at the Fillmore Detroit with a band performing Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues", whose modified refrain gives the special its subtitle and whose lyrics allow the comedian to turn his documented income tax delinquency into a joke. Not really sweating the gimmick, Memphis simply becomes Sinbad by losing his glasses, his hat and the do-rag underneath, prompting the band to clear the stage and the comedy to begin.

After some local material on Detroit's bankruptcy, Sinbad moves to discussing Stand Your Ground laws and Trayvon Martin's death. That case hardly seems like a laughing matter and Sinbad's remarks on how it'd have gone down differently in Detroit (which isn't far from his hometown of Benton Harbor, Michigan) are oddly tone-deaf and misjudged. He continues to riff on race and racism, from how white people can make money as a designated friend in a car of black people to why black women get their hair done.

From here, he moves to teachers who date their students, claiming that there's no harm if the student is male and the teacher is female. This topic allows the comic to focus on one of the rare teenagers in the audience. He proceeds to tackle a number of unrelated topics: Obama wanting to go back home, school boards, vegetarianism, the nude scenes in "Game of Thrones", shoes and feet. These disparate subjects somehow connect in Sinbad's mind; he moves from one to the next quickly and fluidly with no noticeable transitions.

The backstage opening, in which Sinbad talks with his musician alter ego Memphis Red, does not start the show off on the right note. Sinbad interacts some with the diverse crowd in attendance at the Fillmore Detroit.

Sinbad then turns his attentions to another 15-year-old, as an excuse to recall the olden days in which he grew up when TV stations signed off at night and not everyone had air conditioning. Getting back to racism, he pitches people using racial slurs once a week to get it out of their systems (a dumb idea he barely tries selling) and addresses the then-timely summer 2013 N-word scandals of Paula Deen and Riley Cooper.

Winding down, Sinbad gets serious to pay tribute to his father, a preacher who passed away in 2011. The topic of religion and faith sets up the finale, in which the band rejoins Sinbad to perform two versions of the same religious song, the first like a non-denominational church and the second like a black church.

Appearing before a crowd that is diverse in ethnicity and age and comprised of more females than males, Sinbad's material just isn't very funny. He's at ease even when the jokes could and maybe even should elicit groans. Maybe because my expectations were lowered, this seems more tolerable than what I remember of Where U Been?. But while he seems to be having fun, very little of the comedy hits its marks, resonates, or strikes one as remotely original or imaginative. As a Sinbad fan, I'm conflicted:
happy to see him working and enjoying himself, but kind of sad to have my belief in his entertainment value further shaken yet again. While the guy's got to make a living one way or another (and he's a good enough sport to recognize his present irrelevance to teens), it's unfortunate to see the surviving star of one of my all-time favorite movies struggling to enchant an audience as he used to and as less appealing contemporaries still manage to.

Running 90 minutes on DVD, Make Me Wanna Holla probably doesn't lose much on broadcast, where it will be trimmed to around two-thirds of its length to accommodate ads. Billed "extended and uncensored" (not that the latter seems applicable) on its press release, the DVD's bigger advantages are being able to watch it on your own schedule without commercial interruptions, making it of little value to those who already shell out for cable and a DVR.

The DVD menu's chapter titles give an idea of what you can expect in "Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla."

VIDEO and AUDIO

The DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer seems just okay, probably because most of my viewing these days takes advantage of the higher resolution of high definition. Compression seems a little tighter than it needs to be, but this is not something you watch for the visuals. Disappointingly, sound is offered in plain Dolby 2.0 Surround instead of the more common full 5.1-channel experience. Still, the mix is appropriately lively and immersive. It's complemented by optional English SDH subtitles.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

No bonus features are included here, which might have been more troubling had the special not run a full 90 minutes.

The silent, static menus recycle the DVD's front and rear cover art imagery. Scene selection menus make it easy to jump to a specific topic.

No inserts accompany the blue disc inside the unslipcovered Eco-Box keepcase.

Sinbad gets musical with help in a finale that sees him and a band give us two different versions of the same original church song.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Having read his book, seen most of his movies, and long sung the praises of Houseguest, I feel like I'm one of Sinbad's bigger fans. So it pains me that even I find it difficult to recommend his latest stand-up special. Make Me Wanna Holla is uneven and rarely very amusing. The tall comedian remains an appealing presence, but that only makes you wish he had better material to work with. If your appreciation of Sinbad is at all comparable to mine, then it's worth seeing this. Just don't set your hopes very high.

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Reviewed June 10, 2014.



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