Get On the Bus - * * *

Spike Lee’s alternately poignant and simplistic tale of twenty men’s journey from South Central L.A. to The Million Man March can’t help but grab your attention. Among those on the bus are George (Charles S. Dutton), who helped to organize the bus and is the stabilizing factor on board. Jeremiah (Ossie Davis) is easily the oldest of the bunch, full of tales and lore. Flip (Andre Braugher) is an arrogant and irritating struggling actor. Evan (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) has his son, Shmoo (DeAundre Bonds), tethered to him by court order. He wants to show him the historical event in the hopes that it will give him something to strive for rather than gangbanging. Shmoo, on the other hand, resents his never-present father and the entire endeavor. Randall (Harry Lennix) and Kyle (Isaiah Washington) are a separating gay couple. X (Hill Harper) is a film student (and a rather bad one at that, judging by the shots we see) who always has camcorder in hand. Gary (Roger Guenveur Smith) is the light-skinned son of a white mother and a black cop slain in the line of duty. And there are several others… The majority of the film takes place on the bus, and concerns the various conversations that happen therein. The conversational topics range from politics to responsibility, from racism to crime, and a wide variety of others as well. Many of the discussions are thoughtful, entertaining and relevant. Unfortunately, they also point out the simplistic glossing over of other topics presented. In particular, Louis Farrakhan’s anti-semitism, the sexism of the march, and a black Republican are all brought up at one time or another in the film. Yet, they are quickly dismissed as trivialities. Why does the screenplay, which deals intelligently with several other troublesome issues, duck for cover on these others? In any case, when the screenplay is rolling, and the discussions are engaging, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the film. The actors do an excellent job…aside from a few speeches which sit a bit too pat, you almost feel as if the film is a documentary filming real people. Spike Lee shot this movie in a combination of 16mm film and video, giving a mixed, edgy feel to many of the shots. On the whole, Get on the Bus is a bit talky, but it’s thought-provoking enough that you don’t mind it.

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