BEBE’S KIDS (1992)
the film is based upon comedian Robin Harris’ “Bébé’s Kids” stand-up comedy act. It features the voices of Faizon Love (in his film debut), Vanessa Bell Calloway, Marques Houston, Nell Carter, and Tone Lōc. Tom Everett, Rich Little, and Louie Anderson also lend their voices.
Why was it special?: IT WAS THE FIRST ANIMATED MOVIE WITH A PREDOMINANTLY BLACK CAST AND CREW.
Ahh, Bebe’s Kids, what a way to kick off a tribute to Black animation, with the other rite of passage for every smart ass animation blogger/vlogger on the planet. Yeah, everyone has taken a potshot at this movie in some form at some point in their career.
Since this is a month of positivity I’m going to look at the positive points of this movie. At a time when Disney were once again the reigning kings of animated cinema and everybody was either trying to be Disney or do everything in their power to be different in order to stand out against Disney, this movie managed to do its own thing and be different without being too crazy about it. I like the animation to; there’s a lot of movement and fluidity to it. The movie has a good flow that makes it easy on the eyes.
There’s also plenty of funny lines in the movie to. Everyone involving in the production went to great lengths to capture the energy and quickness of Robin Harris’ stand-up routine and does it in an entertaining way.
With that though, we come to the major problem with this movie that I can imagine probably dissuaded a lot of audiences and critics. That’s the fact that this is a very mean spirited movie. Aside from maybe 1 or 2 characters, just about everyone involved is rude, mean, destructive, or just not very pleasant.
Hell, I don’t have to say much about that because you can find out for yourself in what’s pretty much the most iconic line in the whole movie.
“I’m gonna beat the black offa ya.”
Yes, a threat of violence on a child is the most memorable part of this movie. It kind of ends up painting everyone involved in a very negative light, and the whole movie is kind of like that. There’s threats of violence, actual onscreen violence, and mayhem galore–
I don’t know, Pix, what do you think about Bebe’s Kids?
Bebe’s Kids is polarizing. It was pretty polarizing when it premiered back in 1992, with critics on one side panning it, while audiences, who actually went to see it—which I’m guessing was a lot of black families like mine—actually liking it. And to this day, not much has changed on that stance.
It’s still basically the Glass Joe for today’s snarky online critics, while some children of the 90’s like me, still love it.
It’s a cult fave to many, but hasn’t really ever cut away from that anchor that keeps it from universally being recognized as a worthy cult fave, like what happened to films like Fight Club or Shaft, where media takes a step back and says “It was ahead of its time, we were just too slow to catch up.” And I’ve never been able to figure out why that is, other than maybe it was a film that black audiences just got, or it was just bad timing.
For me, I remember seeing this film basically because my dad was a big Robin Harris fan who had already heard the stand-up bit this film originated from. And I think that was the case for a lot parents that took their kids to see this film, along with curiosity, since Harris had passed away from a heart attack shortly before it was made.
“Yo mama so dumb, they told her it was chilly outside so she went and got a bowel.”
Bernie became a household name at one point before his death. Beyond black audiences, Robin never got that.
Or would it still be just a nearly forgotten cult fave?
On the outside, Bebe’s Kids might give the impression that it’s simply an easy cash-in on black stereotypes, when really it’s anything but that. Sure it gets absurd. I mean you’ve got Tone “Wild Thing” Loc voicing a baby as if he’s a deep-voiced O.G. Uncle at the family BBQ.
It doesn’t get more ridiculous than that.
But at it’s heart it’s really an animated film about misunderstood children labeled as delinquents, and a guy whose motives go from selfishly trying to hook up with a woman to actually doing something right.
But it’s told in a hilarious but skewed viewpoint from Robin Harris, that some audiences might not get or laugh at. This is a PG-13 film, but Harris was pretty much an 80’s/early 90’s R-Rated black comedian. To me, it would have been like taking a bunch of non-black co-workers to old Def Jam Comedy shows. Some will laugh. Some will be too afraid to laugh. And others will think they need to be offended for black people.
So yeah, Bebe’s Kids is funny to me and lot of other black people, but I could see why others, especially someone who isn’t black, is not going to find some of the jokes funny.
However, if you weren’t laughing during The Dozens scene between Robin and his ex-wife, you have no sense of humor. That’s just plain funny.
In a lot of ways, the premise and creation of Bebe’s Kids reminds me of the late Bernie Mac’s show. Heck, much of Mac’s stand-up used to remind me of Harris too. Mac’s show was built from a funny bit from his stand-up act concerning some trouble-causing kids. Yet, not only was the Bernie Mac Show a success thanks to black audiences, but the show was loved by a lot of critics and seemed to smash its way into the homes of mainstream and white America.
And yeah, you could say that it’s because one was a T.V. Show, while the other was a PG-13 animated film starring a black cast. But you have to wonder. If a film like Bebe’s Kids would have been released today in theaters or even some channel like Adult Swim, would it have fared better with more people?
Huh, that’s an interesting take, and is pretty much what I was thinking was the problem I had with it. The fact that I just don’t get it, and the way the characters talk, interact, and what they talk about it is so different from how I talk and interact with, well, white people like me. But because it’s different, I ain’t about to trash it because I don’t get it, in fact I kind of appreciate it for that fact.
Thanks for totally killin’ it, buddy.
- this movie was the directorial debut of Bruce W. Smith
- he film received generally negative reviews from critics but was well reviewed from the audience.
- The film currently holds a 25 percent “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes
- It was released on DVD on October 5, 2004, but was discontinued by Paramount in March 2008.
- The original theatrical and home video release were preceded by the short, Itsy Bitsy Spider. This title (including the Itsy Bitsy Spider short) was also released on Laserdisc in March 1993.
- It was later adapted into a poorly reviewed video game on the Super Nintendo in 1994.
My uncle had this movie on laserdisc and when I bought his collection off of him that’s when I first saw it. Gotta admit, I kinda liked it, and I still kinda like it. It’s a movie you can definitely get some laughs at, even if it is pretty mean spirited.