Film — Fat Albert (PG)

Fat Albert (PG)

by Amy Diaz

Bill Cosby makes us all say awwwwwwwww in Fat Albert, the live-action version of his popular (in the 1970s and early 1980s) cartoon.

Yes, 1970s and 1980s. My childhood and the childhood of people (the older people) that I work and socialize with. Which means that this movie needed not only a little meta, a little self-referential humor, it also needed a little refresher course on the cartoon. Because while, yes, Fat Albert was a solid childhood favorite it was also seriously back-in-the-day. Stuff has happened. We’ve been busy. I was a good hour into this movie before I remembered oh, yeah, old Weird Harold, right, he was funny.

However, instead of reaching out to the Cosby kids of olden, this Fat Albert was made for the modern pipsqueak. And because it’s Cosby, it’s child-positive. Message-tastic. Sweet, well-meaning and achingly kind, Fat Albert even offers moments of poignancy.

Yeah, that’s what kids like — kindness and poignancy.

Doris (Kyla Pratt) is a nice girl but she’s been a little blue, a little lacking in self-confidence, a little social-outcasty. She shrinking-violets in the shadow of her popular foster sister Laruri (Dania Ramirez). Ah, the heartbreak of youth. Doris attempts to drown her sorrows in a little TVLand but finds herself shedding a tear even during the good-hearted lesson-teachings of Fat Albert reruns. Her tear drops onto the remote and the combination of sorrow and cable creates a portal through which Fat Albert (Kenan Thompson), Mushmouth (Jermaine Williams), Rudy (Shedrack Anderson III), Bill (Keith Robinson), Bucky (Alphonso McAuley) Old Weird Harold (Aaron A. Frazier) and Dumb Donald (Marques B. Houston) can leave their cartoon world and enter reality.

Doris reacts rather practically;, she screams at the sudden appearance of all these primary-color-wearing guys in her living room. When attempts to send Fat Albert and his gang back to the on-screen junkyard fail (they have to wait another day to the show’s next airing), Doris resigns herself to showing them around her Philadelphia neighborhood. Albert and his boys have a plan — they want to help the sad Doris and find her some friends. Doris wants to melt into the background and actually gets that opportunity once Fat Albert finds himself falling for Lauri. Of course, all attempt to have a good time are in peril when the gang realizes that they are fading — without their cartoon surroundings they risk drying up into a pile of celluloid dust.

Aw man, don’t make me pick on Fat Albert.

I mean, I want to fault this movie for its leaning on cliché after cliché, for its flat jokes and for its underdeveloped characters. But it’s just so gosh darn nice. So, good-hearted and not in that awful cloying way that, say, a Tom Hanks movie is good-hearted. Fat Albert just wants you to have a good time. It’s the kind of movie that cheerfully extends its hand and tells you its happy to meet you and, even though you won’t have an entertaining minute with it, you feel bad for not liking it.

Fat Albert is like a baby puppy — sloppy and overly earnest but ultimately just too darn cute to kick.

- Amy Diaz

 
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