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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 20, 1994


Mike Binder
Damon Wayans;
Lynne Thigpen;
David Alan Grier;
Robin Givens;
Jon Polito

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Damon Wayans, whose disabled crime fighter, "Handyman," was a highlight of his family's Fox TV show, works a variation on that character in "Blankman," a strained spoof of tube-type super-heroism. It's a sweet-natured, rather childish movie with its heart on its sleeve and its funnybone in the toity.

Set in the fictional city of Metro, Ill., the story opens with a nostalgic flashback: Two little boys (played by Wayans's sons, Michael and Damon), wearing makeshift capes, are engrossed in watching "Batman" on a blurry black-and-white TV set. The younger, Darryl, is already showing signs of becoming an inventor when he jury-rigs an antenna to clear up the picture.

"Blap. Crunch. Zap." We're back to the future. Darryl (Wayans), now fully grown, remains a child at heart as he putters about the apartment that belongs to his grandmother (Lynne Thigpen) with J-5, a robot made from a metallic blue fright wig, two flashlights and an old-fashioned wringer washer. Encouraged by Gran, Darryl spends his time inventing preposterously elaborate gizmos out of neighborhood junk.

Meanwhile, his older brother, Kevin (David Alan Grier), supports the family with his job as a cameraman for a crummy tabloid TV show. He yearns to work for network news, which would bolster not only his career, but his love life--he's gaga over the station's anchor, Kimberly (silky Robin Givens). Of course, she wouldn't be interested in a million years.

Meanwhile, Grandmother is shot dead by a mob boss (Jon Polito), who hopes to discourage the people from rallying behind an honest mayoral candidate. Driven further into his fantasy life by the incident, Darryl makes a bulletproof super-suit out of Gran's housecoat and a pair of red long johns, and sets out to fight crime.

After saving a pregnant woman trapped in an elevator, he becomes a sensation, founds the Blankman movement and attracts the attention of Kimberly, the mayor and the evil mob boss. Kevin inevitably and reluctantly is pulled into his brother's fantasy world as his sidekick, Other Guy. And together, they make Metro safe for the time being.

Wayans, who produced the film and co-wrote the script, seems to have envisioned something on the order of an upbeat "The Fisher King," for there's more depth to the character of Blankman than you might imagine. But Wayans is tentative about exploring the inventor's neuroses.

Director Mike Binder, best known for writing "Coupe de Ville," is a stand-up comedian, but you wouldn't know it from this film. Wayans's attempt to take a bite out of crime doesn't really work. In fact, he's shooting a blank.

Blankman is rated PG-13 for vulgarities.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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