I used to love “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”. As a child I spent many days watching the Cosby Kids from their junkyard solve problems while bringing us along for the fun that ensued. It was really no surprise to me when I discovered that the adaptation was being filmed, especially with the successes of popular shows being processed in to bad movies like “Scooby-Doo”, and “Rocky and Bullwinkle”. Very few were hits, and many were utter misses, because instead of giving us a truly good story that works, they were just made to cash in on the popularity and take our money. Luckily, I never paid for any of them. “Fat Albert”–though not as awful as claimed repeatedly–is still a terrible film and was a bit of a match to sit through.
This is a movie that could work if it were genuine and not so blatantly artificial in its setting, characters, and plotline. Had the concept been approached with heart instead of as a sort of self-spoofing homage, it could have made for a touching bit of eye candy. What the writers commit the ultimate faux pax on is failing to appreciate the roots which made the show so popular and timeless in the first place. They take such a subversive show and dumb it down for the purpose to cash in. It’s not as compelling or original as the show was, nor does it present any messages about society as the original show did. Though, I gather the producers figured a heavy topic wouldn’t translate well for its target audience, it’s a shame that such an intent really just condescends to the target audiences intelligence.
Dropping out, drugs, homelessness, these were bits of the social commentary the cartoon “Fat Albert” tackled with its comedy and nuance, but the center plot for this is to make a girl popular? Who gives a crap? Had the writers sought out to truly pay homage to the series, it would have dealt with the character coming to grips with her grandfather’s death, but that remains as a mere sub-plot instead of as a center plot. The entirety of the movie is focused on the fictional characters adjusting to the real world, while attempting to make the star fit in with the crowd she longs to be with, and completely sidesteps any potential for an intelligent piece that children can take something from when leaving the theaters. To think that the character of Fat Albert who is depicted here as an altruist who loves to help people would leave behind a girl who may drop out of school to help another who is having trouble fitting in is just completely ridiculous and took me out of the narrative.
The writers misapprehend the original intent for the series by Cosby and completely fill it with padding such as a fitting montage in a clothing store, and a rap number, along with many questionable character motives. The writers are never sure whether they want to paint the Cosby Kids as well-meaning good Samaritans, or complete buffoons whom just don’t get that they’re doing more bad than good. They cover that hackneyed characterization with colorfully nauseating settings. Director Joel Zwick has made it a point in specializing in mushy, gushy, cavity-inducing fodder such as “Full House”, and “Family Matters”, and doesn’t help ground the series in any setting resembling reality. The buildings are large and bright, and the main character’s life, in comparison to others, is pretty good. Plus, it doesn’t help that the acting is horrible most times.
Stars like Kyla Pratt, and Marques Houston are never truly immersed within their characters and never lose themselves in the role, while the obligatory villain takes up some unneeded time making it difficult for the characters. The worst performance is from Marcus Houston who chews the scenery with his often over the top “acting”. Kenan Thompson does a competent job, but he never did fit in to the persona that Fat Albert required. He’s not big enough and not talented enough to become a compelling character we want to root for. “Fat Albert” is essentially a juxtaposition of its predecessor that never lives up to what it could have offered.
It provides escapist characters, and situations for the kids who apparently won’t leave with anything truly profound which is ultimately an overt dismissal to what its creator had intended for us. So, they lose out. It’s a bad movie with a superficial premise that under mind’s what made the original show so subversive in the first place. With often terrible performances, and a bland plotline. this won’t win any awards or popularity contests, but in spite of its faults, I had a hard time displaying malice towards it because it’s still just a basically harmless movie that doesn’t present potentially damaging messages to the audience such as other films like “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” have done in the past. Through and through, it’s a bad movie, but I’ve seen much worse.