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Hangin’ with the Homeboys Movie Review

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Because Hangin’ with the Home Boys starred a cast of talented unknowns and New Line Cinema did not heavily promote it, the film needed (and deserved) favorable word-of-mouth reviews to do well at the box-office. It's exactly the TYPE of movie I ordinarily detest: four guys hang out together one night every week, preferring their own company to anyone else's, and of course ragging on every female that crosses their path. That said, Hangin’ with the Home Boys is a delight to watch mainly because of writer/director Joseph B. Vasquez's superb understanding of what makes his characters tick. Moreover, the women in the story, although they are seen one-dimensionally by the four guys, are drawn with considerable depth. Willie (Doug E. Doug) is so convinced that his poverty is rooted in the fact he is black that he spends the entire evening sponging off his buddies. Tom (Mario Joyner) wants to be a great actor like William Shatner, even hustling agents as he peddles magazines over the telephone to survive. Johnny (John Leguizamo) works for a supermarket, has fantasies about women, and is terrified to apply for a scholarship that will free him from his safe, spare existence. The most obnoxious of the four is Fernando (Nestor Serrano), who lives off women and wants to be known as Vinny so people will think he's Italian instead of Puerto Rican. Kimberly Russell, Mary B. Ward, Christine Claravall, and Rosemarie Jackson are seen briefly but vividly as the women in their lives, and Reggie Montgomery has a sparkling cameo as a street person named Pasta. Because its executive producer Janet Grillo insisted that film companies take on the project or leave it exactly as is, Vasquez's film is strikingly free of all the telltale evidence that accompanies development process tampering. When 19 or 20 executives start monkeying around with someone's baby, the results are inevitably slick and riddled with cliches. (The difference between the very real confusion young men feel around women and Hollywood's exploitation of that confusion to justify onscreen female bashing is overwhelming.) Although Vaquez clearly likes Willie, Tom, Vinny, and Johnny, their rough edges have not been smoothed away to make them more conventionally appealing. Hangin’ with the Home Boys is highly recommended as a compassionate, extremely funny film about an authentic time in the past of its creator. (Vasquez's other films include The Bronx War and Street Hitz.)

1991 (R) 89m/C Mario Joyner, Doug E. Doug, John Leguizamo, Nestor Serrano, Kimberly Russell, Mary B. Ward, Christine Claravall, Rosemark Jackson, Reggie Montgomery; D: Joseph B. Vasquez; W: Joseph B. Vasquez; C: Anghel Decca. Sundance Film Festival ‘91: Best Screenplay. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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