Crooklyn

132 minutes

Spike Lee goes on automatic pilot in this 1994 drama, chewing over sweet-and-sour family memories with two of his siblings, cowriters Joie Susannah Lee and Cinque Lee, and it's difficult to tell whether the problem here is lack of artistic distance or simple exhaustion. Either way, despite very good performances from Delroy Lindo and Alfre Woodard as the parents, this is anemic and uninspired filmmaking: shapeless as narrative, awkward and drifting as drama. Much as Lee's compulsive avoidance of silence supersedes any creative decisions about his sound tracks (and for the record, Terence Blanchard's score here is virtually interchangeable with the scores for most of Lee's other pictures), his use of a distorting anamorphic lens for the daughter's trip to visit an aunt and uncle isn't so much a creative decision as a gimmick designed to free him from making real creative decisions. (Disappointingly, his role as an actor this time is kept to cameo proportions, as a neighborhood glue sniffer.) With Zelda Harris, Carlton Williams, Sharif Rashid, Chris Knowings, and David Patrick Kelly.

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