Jamie Kennedy's Blowin' Up(Paramount Home Entertainment, 11.28.2006)
The word "desperation" comes to mind while watching Jamie Kennedy's Blowin' Up, a mock-reality series which comedically follows the earnest attempts of the late thirtysomething Kennedy and his best friend Stu Stone to become the "Weird Al" Yankovics of rap. The show is scripted, but the despondent context of Kennedy's career trajectory is not. Kennedy surely knows the sun is getting high on his Hollywood career -- the one-two punch of 2005's Son of the Mask and this past spring's Kickin' It Old Skool didn't help matters -- so he'll take any road that leads to superstardom: TV, the movies, stand-up comedy or rapping. Blowin' Up loosely combines all four and, while the result is amusing, it also borders on pathetic.
Kennedy's white rapper schtick was very funny in 2003's Malibu's Most Wanted, but rather than leave well enough alone Kennedy decides to exploit a past success by pulling the same routine out again for Blowin' Up (and then for a third time on the aforementioned Old Skool). The idea for Blowin' Up could have been an inspired one, but the series never cuts deep enough to draw any real comedic blood.
Opportunities are repeatedly missed to interrogate Kennedy's unquenchable ambition for ambition's sake, the widespread cultural phenomenon of white boys insisting on becoming rappers, the lifestyles of genuinely famous rappers (Ice-T, Wu-Tang Clan, Three 6 Mafia, and Mike Smith all make appearances), and Hollywood in general as a flytrap for those dying to become household names.
Kennedy deserves points for turning the camera onto himself as a real life entertainer fighting to keep his foot in Tinseltown's ever-closing door. However, Kennedy and Stone so often choose to make fun of the lowest common denominators of American pop culture that the series becomes an exercise in frustration. For instance, after visiting with a number of wannabe producers -- and specifically getting turned down by Joe Simpson, the father and manager of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson -- Kennedy and Stone cut a demo about hanging out with Bob Saget, called "Rollin' with Saget." The single provides a tentpole subplot that the series repeatedly returns to with Saget making multiple appearances as himself. Maybe I'm the one who's out of touch here, but making fun of Bob Saget for being a square is a stale joke delivered at least a decade too late.
The cameos by high profile rappers are somewhat surprising in that the talent Kennedy gathers for this series reveals Kennedy's obvious charisma and likability in making so many connections within the rap industry. These cameos undermine Kennedy and Stone's supposed underdog status in Blowin' Up, however, because if all these rappers are willing to appear in the series then the connections Kennedy is trying to foster already exist. Unfortunately, the scenarios with rappers such as Ice-T and Wu-Tang Clan interacting with Kennedy and Stone also fall victim to lowest common denominator syndrome, repeatedly reduced to the racial stereotypes of awkward, geeky crackers feeling threatened by the angry, sexual presence of black males.
Blowin' Up's humor suffers most severely from the changing pop cultural times and especially the waning popularity of Eminem. When Malibu's Most Wanted was released in theaters in 2003, Eminem was an extremely popular, earnestly-received white rapper so it made sense for Kennedy to take the piss out of Eminem and his devoted fan base. In 2006, Kennedy is satirizing an outdated reality. Kennedy gets his digs in at Kevin Federline throughout Blowin' Up, but the mere mention of Federline reminds the viewer that the white rap phenomenon has passed and that the line between legitimate white rap and white rap made in jest has become blurred, if not erased entirely. Why do we need Jamie Kennedy and Stu Stone making parody rap about getting vaccine shots against cooties when we have an unintentional self-parody who takes himself seriously in the likes of a K-Fed?
The extras on this DVD include commentaries from Kennedy, Stone, and series executive producer George Verschoor, as well as all sorts of goodies that expand on the seven episode series, including the "Rollin' with Saget" music video, podcasts, deleted scenes, and footage from MTV Overdrive. Inexplicably, George Lucas makes a cameo in both the actual series and the Bob Saget video. If only Jamie Kennedy's rapping skills had the same mad flow as his apparent networking skills, Blowin' Up might be more enjoyable. -- Jason Woloski