Singleton’s Baby grows up

Baby Boy

Directed by John Singleton

(Tyrese Gibson, A.J. Johnson, Ving Rhames, Taraji P. Henson)

Rated: R

 

Baby Boy, John Singleton’s newest film (completing his “hood trilogy” after Boys In the Hood and Poetic Justice), opens with a marvelous sequence in which a 20-year-old black man floats around in the amniotic fluid of an oversized womb.

The man is the film’s flawed hero, Jody (Tyrese Gibson), and the message is obvious; an entire generation of black men raised solely by their mothers are still just little boys in men’s bodies. How are these “baby boys” supposed to raise their own children when they are still adolescents themselves?

This is the quandary that faces Jody, who has children with two different women, yet still lives at home with his mother (A.J. Johnson). But when his mother starts dating a hulking former gangbanger named Melvin (Ving Rhames), it seems like the baby bird is finally being pushed from the nest. Melvin’s statement, “You want your mama to be your woman, but she’s my woman,” illustrates the strange Oedipal drama that Singleton points to as the source of the problem.

In any world where the Oedipus complex infects in such epidemic proportions, how does any traditionally healthy relationship exist? From what we are shown, it doesn’t. The narrative’s main love story-that between Jody and Yvette (Taraji P. Henson)-is backwards to the point of aberration. How else can one characterize a relationship where public arguments quickly fade to bouts of athletically challenging sex, fisticuffs give way to fellatio and the heroine lovingly whispers to the hero, “When I say I hate you, what I really mean is I love you.”

Thus, the only means of achieving romantic fidelity and normalcy is by overcoming this complex, by shaking off the cloak of adolescence and by embracing the responsibilities of manhood.

With impressive performances by the youthful cast, and Singleton’s uncanny ability to write realistic dialogue, this film is a joy to watch from the opening scene. Viewing the first two films of this trilogy isn’t essential in order to appreciate Baby Boy. However, those familiar with Singleton’s work will be rewarded by the familiarity of his self-referential auteuristic touches.

-Christopher Yocum