DVD Picks: 'Boyz N The Hood'

Jul 19, 2011
Originally published on August 10, 2011 12:56 pm

Time now for movie critic Bob Mondello to suggest something for viewing at home, rather than the multiplex. This week, the 20th anniversary release of a film that jump-started a lot of careers: Boyz N The Hood.

South Central L.A. On the map, so close to Hollywood. But in 1991, it might as well have been on the moon as far as movie studios were concerned.

First-time writer-director John Singleton changed that with a portrait of the lives of people in an urban black community — not crack dealers and gangbangers, but kids who grew up with the sound of sirens and police helicopters interrupting their sleep. The movie centers on three teenagers played by Cuba Gooding, Jr. in his first major role and Morris Chestnut and rapper Ice Cube in their first movies ever.

The adults in their lives were Angela Bassett moving over from TV to become a movie star, and Laurence Fishburne, back before The Matrix, keeping his son out of trouble even when trouble had already found him.

It's hard to get your head around what this movie meant to the African-American community 20 years ago. There just weren't any other pictures out there like it. And in the DVD extras, the actors talk about that. Fishburne, who was 29 at the time, remembers how his role as a responsible dad had seemed to resonate with a 16-year-old on the street about a year after the movie came out.

"There was something that he needed from me, or that he wanted to express, but that he really couldn't articulate very well," says the actor.

On reflection, he realized what the kid was trying to say: "That basically with this role, you've become the father to a generation of fatherless boys."

The Boyz N The Hood, now a generation later.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

N T: "Boyz N The Hood."

BOB MONDELLO: South Central L.A. On the map, so close to Hollywood. But in 1991, it might as well have been on the moon as far as movie studios were concerned.

First-time writer-director John Singleton changed that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BOYZ N THE HOOD")

Unidentified Child #1 (Actor): (as character) You all want to see a dead body?

Unidentified Child #2 (Actor): (as character) Yeah.

Unidentified Child #3 (Actor): (as character) Tre's daddy blasted at somebody last night. Unidentified Child #1: (as character) Really? What kind of gun your daddy got?

MONDELLO: A portrait of the people in an urban black community - not crack dealers and gangbangers, but kids who grew up with the sound of sirens and police helicopters interrupting their sleep. The movie centers on three teenagers played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in his first major role and Morris Chestnut and rapper Ice Cube in their first movies ever.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BOYZ N THE HOOD")

ICE CUBE: (as Doughboy/Darren) We got a problem here?

MIA BELL: (as Female Club Member) Can we have one night where there ain't no fighting, nobody gets shot?

MONDELLO: The adults in their lives were Angela Bassett moving over from TV to become a movie star, and Laurence Fishburne, back before "The Matrix," keeping his son out of trouble even when trouble had already found him.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BOYZ N THE HOOD")

LAURENCE FISHBURNE: (as Furious Styles) Look, I'm sorry about your friend. My heart goes out to his mother and his family. But that's their problem, Tre. You my son. You my problem. I want you to give me the gun.

MONDELLO: It's hard to get your head around what this movie meant to African- Americans 20 years ago. There just weren't any other pictures out there like it. And in the DVD extras, the actors talk about that. Fishburne, who was 29 at the time, remembering how his role as a responsible dad had seemed to resonate with a 16-year-old he met on the street about a year after the movie came out.

(SOUNDBITE OF DVD EXTRAS, "BOYZ N THE HOOD")

FISHBURNE: There was something that he needed from me or that he wanted to express that he really couldn't articulate very well.

MONDELLO: Then he realized what the kid was trying to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXTRAS OF MOVIE, "BOYZ N THE HOOD")

FISHBURNE: Basically, with this role, you've become the father to a generation of fatherless boys.

MONDELLO: The "Boyz N The Hood" now a generation later.

I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.