out of Five
Running time: 103
Enjoyable documentary that blends concert material with behind the scenes footage to winning effect, thanks to Chappelle's likeable screen presence.
What's it all about?
In September 2004, US comedian Dave Chappelle organised a Block Party (essentially a hiphop concert, interspersed with comedy links from Chappelle) in his Brooklyn neighbourhood, with the aim of giving something back to the community.
Michel Gondry's documentary follows Chappelle around as he visits his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, handing out invites to the party, then intercuts concert footage with behind-the-scenes rehearsals and backstage banter.
Gondry and cinematographer Ellen Kuras make strong use of handheld cameras, really drawing the audience in, so that by the end of the film you'll feel like you were actually there on the day. The atmosphere is genuinely infectious – the fact that the event is packed, despite pouring rain, speaks volumes.
Chappelle (a big star in the States thanks to his TV show but best known here for his role as the obnoxious comedian in The Nutty Professor) is frequently hilarious and there are some wonderful scenes, particularly when he recruits an Ohio marching band to play at the party. The film's only real flaw is that there aren't more scenes like this.
Gondry includes interviews with several interesting characters, notably a couple of Ohio teenagers and the residents of Broken Angel House in Brooklyn, an eccentric old couple who don't really like hiphop but are happy to help out however they can.
The concert footage is impressive, climaxing with an onstage reunion of The Fugees, who hadn't played together in seven years. The backstage footage is interesting too, especially when Chappelle is filmed meticulously rehearsing every gag. It's also fun to see him bantering with his hiphop friends, such as Mos Def and Kanye West.
In short, this is a treat for hiphop fans, but Chappelle's likeable persona ensures that non-fans will enjoy the film too.
Dave Chappelle's Block Party (15)