In his second movie as a director, “Laughing to the Bank,” Brian Hooks plays Brian Hooks, an actor who can’t convince Hollywood executives that he’s a really funny guy. Turns out they were right to be skeptical.
Hooks is not hilarious when he’s lampooning women, stutterers, Latino gangsters, smarmy television hosts or people of small stature. And he’s no more amusing when he turns the tables on himself to get beat up by a disabled man, wrestled by a naked guy or tasered by a thug. Although that last one does tell Hooks, “You are funny as hell.”
Loosely structured as parody of a thriller, this no-budget flick was completed in 2011, but is only now arriving in theaters. It begins in a Las Vegas motel, where a mobster and his beefy enforcer demand to know what happened to some money. Hooks won’t tell them right away, because then he’d have no movie. Instead, he recounts a series of events, which play out in flashback and revolve around his attempts to fund a movie or land a television series.
Several of the anecdotes, though, are sketches that have nothing to do with the story. In these mirthless interludes, Hooks plays such characters as a flatulent British king (“The Tooters”) and a deep South cooking-show host who rages at a guest who attempts to demonstrate a low-fat chicken recipe.
Clearly, Hooks and his writing partners see no advantage in challenging stereotypes. In “Laughing to the Bank,” all Latinos step out of “Scarface,” all black women are overtly sexual and all white people come from Westport, Conn. — unless they have fake Cockney accents.
The only thing in the movie that feels genuine is Hooks’s panic about his career. He plays scenes where he’s commended for his portrayal of a slave in “Beloved” — as if he can never top that small part — or mistaken for Kevin Hart or Derek Luke. The successes of Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey seem to haunt him.
Maybe Winfrey will find a nice role for Hooks the next time she produces a prestige drama. If so, it probably won’t be because she was impressed by “Laughing to the Bank.”
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
R. At area theaters. Contains profanity, sexual situations and comic violence. In English and Spanish with English subtitles. 88 minutes.