When Mario Van Peebles decided to write his latest feature, We The Party, he says he was aiming for some kind of middle ground. He knew he couldn’t go completely syrupy to keep the audience he was targeting. He also couldn’t make it completely thuggish.
So, he compromised.
The result is a comedic, syrupy/thuggish coming-of-age story about a bunch of high school friends facing graduation, their first sexual experiences, growing up, taking responsibility, dismissing stereotypes and possible danger from a local gang.
“Teenagers are at the center of a seismic cultural shift,” says Mario Van Peebles, best known for directing the urban gangster hit New Jack City. “Their world is changing fast, from their music to their dancing, jerking, twerking, skateboarding, dating and facebooking. Thug life is old school now and, for some, smart is the new gangsta.”
MANDELA VAN PEEBLES, MARIO VAN PEEBLES & PATRICK CAGE II
With the fictitious Baldwin Hills High School as the backdrop, the movie chronicles the adventures of five tightly-knit buddies as they face the next chapter in their young lives. The focus is Hendrix, played by Van Peebles’ son, Mandela Van Peebles. He is saving for his first car, trying to keep his divorced parents happy (Mario Van Peebles and Salli Richardson-Whitfield), trying to maintain his grades, is smitten by a Cheyenne (Simone Battle) and is still trying to stay cool with his core of friends who have all bet each other they’ll be the first to lose their virginity.
MANDELA VAN PEEBLES and SIMONE BATTLE in WE THE PARTY
To make matters more difficult for Hendrix, his mother is the principal of the school and his father is one of his teachers.
But, there’s more. There’s C.C., a confused, thuggish would be rapper played by YG (‘Toot It and Boot It’) – thrown into the mix, who could care less about school and is trying to come to grips with who he is and which way he wants to go in his life.
Other movie mayhem occurs when the kids must deal with the homeless as a school assignment – a situation that puts them in danger. As a means to make money, the friends throw a house party that gets out of hand when C.C.’s thug brother (Snoop Dogg) and his crew, played by Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, show up to steal the party’s bounty.
(l-r in the background), TOMMY 'TINY' LISTER and SNOOP DOGG
The movie takes a serious turn when money that was earmarked for the prom is stolen and the prom may be cancelled as a result.
One of the reasons Van Peebles said he wrote the script is because of his children.
“My kids are getting old and leaving the house,” says Van Peebles. “I’m one of those dads. I love being a dad. To understand this new, young culture, I went into Los Angeles at night and went to some clubs with my kids.”
Van Peebles said what he found was eye-opening.
The music in this movie is tight and appropriate. There are a number of artists featured including: The New Boyz, YG, The Rej3ctz, The Pink Dollaz, Los Dos, MVP Boyz, Royalty, Tree Adams, Canario and more.
There’s a lot going on in this movie. But there are also some solid life lessons to be learned.
“It’s not the car you dive or the clothes you wear, the real party is inside,” says Melvin Van Peebles, who does a cameo in the film.
“I have not felt this kind of intense street energy behind a film since New Jack City,” say Mario Van Peebles. “I wouldn’t have known what today’s teenagers are experiencing if I didn’t have teens myself.”
We the Party, written, directed and starring Mario Van Peebles, also stars Mandela Van Peebles, Simone Battle, Moises Arias, Makaylo Van Peebles, Patrick Cage II, Ryan Vigil, YG, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Michael Jai White, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, China Walker, Maya Van Peebles, Morgana Van Peebles, Snoop Dogg, Orlando Brown and BK Cannon.
The XLrator Media and MVP movie, presented by A Saving The Seagull Production of a Mario Van Peebles Film, is MPAA Rating: R; running time: one hour, 44 minutes.
On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (Oh, yeah) and E (excellent), “We The Party” gets an L (Likable).