Baby Boy

Directed by John Singleton
Starring: Tyrese Gibson, Taraji P. Henson, A.J. Johnson, Ving Rhames, Snoop Dogg, Omar Gooding.
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, language, violence and some drug use.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
June 28, 2001

John Singleton made his directorial debut with Boyz N the Hood, a brilliant drama about growing up in the gang-infested Compton area of Los Angeles. It was a highly influential film for every young black director except Singleton himself, who has since gone on to direct very different films. After getting Shaft out of his system last year, Singleton has returned to the 'hood to tell another story.

Tyrese Gibson stars as Jody, a young man who has two children by two different young women, yet still lives with his mother (A.J. Johnson). After driving his son's mother, Yvette (Taraji P. Henson) home from an abortion clinic, he heads off (in her car) to the house of his daughter's mother (Tamara LaSeon Bass). As much as he wants to continue sowing his oats, his relationship with Yvette is becoming more committed, so he starts trying to make a living by selling dresses that "fell" off a truck.

Meanwhile, his mother has a new boyfriend named Melvin (Ving Rhames). After Melvin moves in, Jody is afraid that he may be kicked out -- and his obvious Oedipal jealousy is no help when Melvin tries to give him advice.

Basically, the same theme from Boyz N the Hood exists here: it ain't easy growing up. However, this film tries to express this with a comedic touch which works surprisingly well in a film that also contains rape and murder. Singleton shows exceptional skill in bringing this story together, getting the laughs when needed and venturing into darker territory without worrying about keeping it soft. Unfortunately, it just couldn't build up to a satisfactory ending. In fact, a "happily ever after" epilogue plays over the end credits, which is far more jarring than any of the violence in the film.

At least Singleton has a surprisingly good cast on which to rely. Gibson (who is known as a model and singer as simply "Tyrese") actually manages to carry the film despite little acting experience. Also new to the screen is rapper Snoop Dogg, who plays Yvette's old boyfriend. He has a very natural, unaffected style which works quite well (the last thing we need is to see Tyrese and Snoop overacting). The great strength in the film, of course, is Rhames, who also starred in Singleton's Rosewood. His presence is more palpable and refined, making an excellent foil for Gibson.

Even if Baby Boy isn't quite the same caliber of film as Boyz N the Hood, it is a welcome return to form for Singleton.

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Baby Boy (2001)

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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan