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'The Wood'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 16, 1999

  Movie Critic

'The Wood'
Richard T. Jones, Omar Epps and Taye Diggs are boyhood friends in "The Wood." (Paramount)

Rick Famuyiwa
Taye Diggs;
Omar Epps;
Richard T. Jones;
Tamala Jones;
Sean Nelson
Running Time:
1 hour, 46 minutes
Contains obscenity, a gang beating, armed robbery, vomiting, male nudity, sexual situations and sexual humor
The feature debut of writer/director Rick Famuyiwa has a lot going for it, but it just doesn't get very far out of the starting gate. Despite the unforced humor and honesty in the performances of its young and talented cast, "The Wood" spends too much time wallowing in arrested adolescence to make you feel you've traveled anywhere.

Where it starts out is in "the Wood," the small Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood where Famuyiwa really spent his teenage years and where the semi-autobiographical action of the story takes place. It opens on the wedding day of twentysomething Roland (Taye Diggs) and Lisa (Lisaraye), picture-perfect except that it's T minus three hours and counting and Ro is nowhere to be found. Best men Mike (Omar Epps) and Slim (Richard T. Jones) are quickly dispatched to find the bashful bachelor after they get beeped by his old high school flame Tanya (Tamala Jones), at whose apartment their very drunk pal has been hiding out. Yes, I know, the wedding-jitters scenario is as old as "Love, American Style" reruns, and here it's just a gimmick allowing Famuyiwa to flash back to the Jheri-Curled '80s as the trio reminisces about junior and senior-high high jinks while trying to sober up their friend.

It turns out Ro's reluctance to tie the knot stems less from commitment-phobia than from a fear of losing touch with his boys, or should I say his boyhood. The adolescent actors (Sean Nelson, Duane Finley and Trent Cameron) are all fine, but when everything is said and done, "The Wood" is just another testosterone-laden Peter Pan story about guys who have to be dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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