It’s 1939 and black leaders W.E.B. DuBois and George Washington Carver decide that segregated America is no place for African Americans, so they devise a secret plot to solve the “Negro Problem” by way of a rocket ship to Mars. Carrying an improbable crew of three, the spacecraft vaults into a time warp, landing its brave scientist-astronauts in modern day Kansas City. And, though the astonished explorers discover developments like young men with drooping pants and the election of a black president, DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO! reveals that things may not have changed as much as we think they have.
Featuring a talented ensemble cast which The Chicago Tribune called “a cunning group of actors expert at deploying side-eye reactions and deadpan one-liners”, the film stars Willmott as Dr. Warrington Avery, Trai Byers (“Empire”, Selma, “90210”) as B-12, Tosin Morohunfola (The Association, “Chicago Med”) as Dr. Race Johnson and Danielle Cooper as Beneatha Avery. Co-stars include Wes Studi (“Penny Dreadful”, A Million Ways to Die in the West) and Walter Coppage (Jayhawkers, The Association).
What We Thought:
Destination: Planet Negro! is a really smart satire lampooning an array of subjects. This is how you do parody right!
Somehow we got away from witty satire in favor of things like A Haunted House 5 and Scary Movie 12. Those films are lowest common denominator, how many jokes can we get in per second movies. This is how you entertain, have a message and hit the audience with it.
What’s great is just how many things this film tackles. Early on it’s spoofing early science fiction films. I love old sci-fi with cheesy special effects and models. That is more artistic than a computer making everything look fake. The rocket ship in this is just fantastic. The three members are sitting on regular desk chairs inside this rocket to Mars. Add in the robot that looks like Robot B9 from Lost in Space and you hit all the right early sci-fi parody buttons.
The film also talks about social injustices, racism and how things change and don’t change through the years. It’s first set in the 1930s when terms like negro were still used. Black folk still weren’t looked at as equals and black scientists still weren’t treated the same. They decide to leave Earth and have their own land on Mars.
Then through time travel they end up in modern day America. They think they are on Mars because of how different it is. They don’t believe there could be an African-American president. They have no idea that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and that blacks can be star athletes in pro sports. Same for celebrities and musicians.
What’s great is that the film isn’t afraid to poke fun at today’s black culture either. They see a young African-American man with his pants hanging off his butt and they think he’s a field slave who doesn’t eat enough. They think he’s malnourished and that’s why his pants don’t fit. They also talk about how the N-word has changed over the decades and who can say it and who can’t.
I also found it hilarious that they think everyone with their cell phones and ear buds are slaves and controlled by what’s going in their ears. We really have become slaves to technology and don’t know how to cope with today’s world without our electronics in our hands. At first they think it’s how they control the African-Americans, but when the daughter mentions she saw whites with the ear buds too, there’s a fantastic joke about the Irish. Being Irish, I laughed and rewound it to hear it again.
If you think parodies and satire can only pander to bottom of the barrel jokes, Destination: Planet Negro! will prove you wrong. It’s wit and intelligence at its highest level. There’s ways of getting a message across without beating someone over the head with it. You can entertain people AND say “Hey there’s some stuff happening we want to talk to you about.” It’s funny, witty and has a strong message. For that, it is…
DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO! will be available via VOD and digital HD on all leading digital platforms on June 10, 2016.
Cast & Crew:
- Kevin Willmott
- Tosin Morohunfola
- Danielle Cooper
- Trai Byers
Recommended If You Like:
- Hollywood Shuffle
- Black Dynamite
- Smart Satire