is a 1999 film starring Eddie Murphy
and Martin Lawrence
. At first glance, it appears to be a normal, Murphy, screwball comedy. It has surprising depths as it follows several decades of the main characters' unlikely friendship, fitting it firmly in the Dramedy territory.
In 1932 New York City
, Claude Banks (Lawrence) gets caught up in a bootlegging scheme (remember, Prohibition didn't end until 1933) after a fateful run in with no-good Ray Gibson (Murphy). While making the sale in the Deep South
, the boys get involved in a crooked game of cards and end up framed for the murder of the local card shark. Sentenced to life, their friendship is forged by proximity and the dream of escape.
This film provides examples of:
- Alone in a Crowd: When Claude is left alone at the bus station, he looks around at the outside world. It's his first time seeing it in forty years. He looks utterly lost and then catches his own wrinkled reflection in a car window.
- Berserk Button: White Only Pie.
- Bittersweet Ending: Claude and Ray spend their whole lives locked away for a crime they never committed. By the time they finally pull off a successful escape, they're both old men living in the modern world. Still the ending treats this in a positive light.
- Book Ends: Ray and Claude's funeral.
- Camp Gay: Biscuit.
- Chocolate Baby: The Superintendent's daughter gives birth to a very obviously not white child. This leads to a hilarious scene where the Superintendent lines the prisoners up and compares the baby to each of them, trying to root out the father.
- Credits Gag: A bloopers reel is shown during the credits. The best of which is Murhpy's crack during the watch scene: "Hey, this ain't my daddy's watch!"
- Daddy's Little Villain: When punishing Ray and Claude after a would be escape, the superintendent asks Little Mae Rose what she thinks he should do with them. She considers for a moment, and then sentences them to a night in The Hole (her daddy extends it to a week).
- Dawson Babies: When the superintendent lines the convicts up to compare the baby to, it should be the next day after the birth. The baby is wide eyed and holding it's head up on it's own and working it's hands. It's clearly at least 3-5 months old.
- Deep South: Even though they are black men in the early 1900s, Claude is shocked to see the differences in their treatment when they leave New York and head South.
- Driven to Suicide: Unable to cope with the idea of living on the outside, Biscuit commits suicide by running across the gun line.
- Ray's father gave up hope and hung himself in prison.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: We never hear most of the inmates' real names. Instead they are introduced by their prison names: Biscuit, Jangle Leg, Cookie, etc. No one ever even knows Can't Get Right's real name, as he can't speak to introduce himself.
- Everything Makes a Mushroom: Ray's attempt to escape in the crop duster ends this way. Amazingly, he's shown being shoved into The Hole with no injuries other than a hilarious covering of soot.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Ray and Claude hate each other until they have to spend decades in each other's company.
- Foregone Conclusion: Ray and Claude die in prison. Or did they?
- Hope Spot: When the superintendent finds out Ray and Claude are innocent, he immediately moves to write their pardon - right after he gets out of the restroom. Unfortunately, the stress of the day's events causes a heart attack and he dies without drawing up the papers or telling a soul.
- I Am Spartacus: The entire camp claims fathership of Mae Rose's child to save Can't Get Right.
- Imagine Spot: The inmates have one when Ray talks about his dream of owning a nightclub.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Can't Get Right is obviously very simple and never speaks. However, his baseball skills earn him a full pardon and he manages to have an affair with the superintendent's daughter.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The closing scene is intended to be highly uplifting and spotlight Ray and Claude's friendship and freedom. However, the song chosen was What Would You Do by City High, which is about a woman explaining her reasons for becoming a hooker. The song was obviously only chosen for the single chorus line "But for me this is what I call life."
- Make It Look Like an Accident: The superintendent explains to the police that the shooting was a Dick Cheney style hunting accident.
- Odd Couple: Straitlaced Claude and petty thief Ray.
- The Old Convict: Claude and Ray become this over decades of incarceration.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Ray's watch, given to him by his deceased father who hung himself in prison.
- Punishment Box: Prisoners are punished with time in "The Hole," which is an outhouse sized shed with no light or plumbing out in the sun in the South.
- Red Right Hand: Claude recognizes the real murderer by his accent and the scar across his cheek.
- Sand In My Eyes: After hearing Ray and Claude's story, one of the young inmates claims his tears are from allergies.
- She's All Grown Up: Little Mae Rose.
- Signature Item Clue: Gibson sees his father's heirloom pocket watch—the one he lost to the card sharp he was convicted of murdering—in the possession of the deputy who arrested him for the murder, and puts two and two together.
- Situational Sexuality: Biscuit and Jangle Leg are together. The party scene implies that Jangle is interested in women when he can get them. Biscuit isn't happy.
- Time-Compression Montage: After closely following their first 12 years of incarceration, the film skips to the mid 70s via a montage of historical events and images of the other inmates fading as they either died or were released.
- True Companions: The inmates form an odd family of sorts.
- The Voiceless: Can't Get Right.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Ray Gibson and Claude Banks now live in Harlem...Together.
- Where Da White Women At?: Can't Get Right can't keep his eyes off of Mae Rose. Ray and Claude continually try to warn him what kind of trouble this could get him in.
- Working on the Chain Gang: Claude and Ray are sentenced to work on a chain gang after being wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn't commit.
- Zany Scheme: Ray's constant escape plots.