The first thing that happens in "The Wood" is that Mike (Omar Epps) starts talking to the camera. He tells us that one of his best friends, Roland (Taye Diggs), is late to his own wedding and that his other best friend, Slim (Richard T. Jones), is highly agitated. Nearly the second thing that happens is that the film flashes back to Mike (Sean Nelson) as a 14-year-old in 1986 when he first arrives in Inglewood, California.
First-time director Rick Famuyiwa is one of these lucky bastards who got his ass kissed by Redford's peons in the Sundance screenwriters lab. What exactly do they teach over there at Sundance, anyway? If "The Wood" is any indication, it's the cinematic equivalent of shop class.
Omar Epps can tell me all day that his name is Mike and these are his buddies, but not a second goes by that I don't know that he's Omar Epps and some tuxedoed midget is standing just offscreen with roll of toilet paper waiting to wipe his ass. Talking into the camera is about the second most reviled technique in filmmaking. The first is the flashback. I have yet to read a book on filmmaking that didn't shun the flashback. It's a juvenile way of telling a story.
Nevertheless, director Rick Famuyiwa jumps back and forth between past and present to three kids who couldn't have looked less like Omar Epps, Taye Diggs and Richard T. Jones if they were white. Their story is something like "American Pie" in a way, and would be absolutely numbing if they actually were white. In the present, Roland's acceptance of his wedding vows and Mike's realization that friends are important are so predictable that one may not be able to hear the final heartfelt prepackaged soundtrack song over the audience's indifferent snoring.
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