Fat Albert [2004]

Director: Joel Zwick
Stars: Kenan Thompson, Kyla Pratt, Omarion Grandberry, Marques Houston, Dania Ramirez
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 93 minutes

The bright cartoon colors of the Saturday morning classic Fat Albert get brought into the real world--or a Hollywood facsimile of reality, at any rate. When a teenage girl named Doris (Kyla Pratt) sheds a tear onto her TV's remote control, her unhappiness summons Fat Albert (Kenan Thompson, Barbershop 2), Mushmouth, Dumb Donald, Old Weird Harold, and the rest of the gang from Bill Cosby's popular cartoon (inspired by his childhood memories of growing up in Philadelphia). Doris is, to say the least, a little freaked out and doesn't really want Fat Albert to help solve her problems--but with the blithe confidence that only cartoon characters can have, Fat Albert and the gang follow her to school to root out the source of her misery. One of the movie's problems (which are legion) is that Doris's world isn't much more real than the cartoon one; it's a sterile, clean-cut caricature of a city neighborhood. In fact, the whole movie feels suspiciously like a commercial for a DVD of Fat Albert cartoons, an advertisement for which actually appears in the movie, making for a bizarrely self-referential product placement. Thompson, surprisingly, hangs on to his dignity in the face of the inane proceedings and even gives Fat Albert a hint of gravitas. --Bret Fetzer

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