The DVD Journal | Quick Reviews: Zebrahead
[box cover]


There haven't been many movies like Zebrahead, even though its themes and realities are prevalent in our society. Director Anthony Drazan — later responsible for the incredible Hurlyburly — sadly ran out of money before Zebrahead was completed. This partly shows. The picture is on the cusp of a good movie, but suffers from too many subplots that amount to very little, as well as an intriguing central story that is weakened by the extraneous material, making the picture less fascinating and relevant. Made in 1992, the film takes place in Detroit, where a Jewish teenager named Zack (Michael Rapaport) hangs with his best friend Dee (Deshonn Castle), a black schoolmate. Dee has a beautiful cousin in Nikki (N'Bushe Wright), and the first day Zack sees her he's smitten. He shyly asks her out. Somewhat nervous about their interracial date, they find they've got things in common and truly like each other. Soon they're an item, but the couple's families react differently. Nikki's mother doesn't like her daughter with a white boy, while Zack's womanizing dad (the late, often great Ray Sharkey) is all for Zack getting down with any girl. Though Dee has no problem with his best friend dating his cousin, a young neighbor named Nut (Ron Johnson) is angry, as he's pined for Nikki and doesn't like the neighborhood catch with a white guy. There's some other characters, most notably a firebug played by Kevin Corrigan who constantly lights fires in his lawn for reasons we don't understand, other than that he's a pyro. They're may be something pertinent to his actions, but we just don't know. We also don't really understand Zack's home front. His mother is dead, and apparently his dad has filled his life with mindless sex, even to the point of (we think) propositioning Zack's girlfriend. We do get all the troubles involving Nut, who eventually gets violent. In Romeo and Juliet fashion, someone dies and we're supposed to reflect and deeply feel the pain and confusion of the kids from separate worlds. Ultimately Zebrahead is saying that it's a shame people can't just easily love across racial lines, which is an obvious statement though not useless. It's just a shame that it couldn't have put it across with more finesse and invention. Through this romance, the film dollops too many issues on top of itself, making for an awkward polemic. It makes you wish that one of the film's producers (and king of the stinging polemic), Oliver Stone, had more of a hand in the production. Though Rapaport is good (he seems to work well in race-issue films, even the awful Bamboozled), Drazan doesn't allow him enough time with other characters to give his relationships much depth. Columbia TriStar's Zebrahead DVD presents a pristine anamorphic transfer (1:85:1) that complements the film's simultaneous bright and gritty documentary feel, while the crisp audio comes in Dolby 2.0 Surround. Supplements include English and French subtitles and theatrical trailers for John Singleton's Boyz 'n the Hood and Higher Learning. The disc lacks a commentary track, which is regrettable since Zebrahead is the perfect movie for comments, and even critiques, by its own director. Keep-case.
—Kim Morgan

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