Chi-Raq ★★½


Admirable in theory, but kind of excruciating to actually sit through. As a musical comedy, it's mostly leaden, despite Parris' appealing turn in the lead (which is offset by Cannon's dull glowering); as a political statement, the kindest thing that can be said is that it's well-intentioned. My instinct regarding the latter is to blame co-screenwriter Kevin Willmott, whose C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America was equally ham-handed, but it's not as if Lee hasn't frequently wielded a bludgeon when a scalpel would be more appropriate. Were Chi-Raq as blisteringly angry and confrontational as, say, Janelle Monáe's protest version of "Hell You Talmbout" (which I can never make it through without weeping), its simplistic approach to a complex problem—"Hey, let's just give everybody a job!" "Great idea! Why has nobody ever thought of that before?"—wouldn't be an issue. Applied to a glib, jokey Lysistrata update, however, the lack of anything approaching thought or insight comes perilously close to sounding like the left's version of "Here's my strategy: We win, they lose."