'Hangin' with the Homeboys' tells predictable tale with breezy charm

MOVIES

September 27, 1991|By Stephen Wigler

"Hangin' with the Homeboys" is a scrapbook filled with postcards of modern urban life. It's superficial -- putting a pretty veneer on some ugly aspects of life in New York -- but it's attractive and its pages turn effortlessly.

Director Joseph Vasquez's first feature-length movie follows four young men from the South Bronx on a boys' night out in August. This is a movie filled with symmetries (two of the four are Hispanic and two are black) and it strives for inclusiveness. Except that none of the group is a scary punk, they cover every stereotype associated with poor youth of their background:

Johnny (John Leguizamo) is a good-natured, college-destined nerd; Willie (Doug E. Doug) is a natural clown who -- with a strange mix of benignity and anger -- blames all his misfortune on his blackness; Tom (Mario Joyner) could be called an out-of-work actor were it not for the fact that he's never worked as one; and Vinny (Nestor Serrano) is really a Fernando, but is so enchanted with Italianness that he's not only changed his name but also keeps a photo of Frank Sinatra on his mirror.

These four leave their native turf in the Bronx for Manhattan in search of girls and action. They get somewhat more than they bargained for -- as first their car and then their pretensions are wrecked.

It's all pretty predictable. The skirt-chasing Vinny spends the night (literally) in the gutter; the shy Johnny meets a sexy, provocative and educated happenin' chick who convinces him to apply to college; Willie finally realizes that no one else -- least of all other black people -- wants to hear him complain; and nothing much seems to happen to Tom except that he loses both his car and his girlfriend. Along the way they meet some interesting characters, go to some weird parties and get busted in the

subway.

Despite its ethnicity, "Hangin' with the Homeboys" is really a blander, safer version of Martin Scorsese's daring "After Hours." But it's well-paced and it has its share of breezy charm.

'Hangin' with the Homeboys'

Starring Doug E. Doug, Mario Joyner, John Leguizamo and Nestor Serrano.

Directed by Joseph B. Vasquez.

Released by New Line Cinema.

Rated R.

** 1/2

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