The twist in this Warner Bros. release is that the story is set in an African-American community — OK, it’s set in the projects — which triggers an unfortunate onslaught of caricatures one had hoped had gone out of fashion a long time ago. The good news for Tyler Perry is that no one will dare call him unsubtle after “Lottery Ticket.” Let loose on Friday, the comedy’s box office profile should rise sharply with urban audiences, then fall even more steeply.
Rapper-actor Bow Wow plays Kevin, a well-meaning 18-year-old from the projects — presumably in Georgia because that’s where the movie was made — who through force of contrived circumstances wins a “Mondo Millions Lottery.” This incredulously happens just before a 4th of July weekend, so the state lottery offices are closed. Consequently, Kevin has to survive four days in the neighborhood jungle before he can claim his reward.
Cue a shockingly banal parade of cartoon personalities determined to get a piece of Kevin’s winnings. In no particular order, he must cope with a gossipy, heedless grandmother (Loretta Devine, who deserves a better fate); a ghetto godfather (Keith David); a charlatan preacher (Mike Epps); a neighborhood tramp (Teairra Mari); and a thug parolee (Gbenga Akinnagbe) who won’t take no or yes as an answer.
Strangely, before he wins this lottery, our Kevin spends the movie’s first quarter of an hour walking through his ‘hood, encountering all and sundry, while trying to get to his job at a Foot Locker store. His exhaustion over having to deal with these difficult “personalities” is palpable.
Then, upon winning a fortune, it’s as if he never knew their true nature. The thought of millions apparently has rendered him guileless. First he vows along with his grandmother to tell no one about his sudden good fortune. But within minutes, thanks to vow-breaking on both their parts, everyone knows. Then Kevin becomes a much different person.
Why would a seemingly street-smart kid suddenly cozy up to all the worst sorts in his neighborhood but question his best pal (Brandon T. Jackson) and disrespect his sweetheart (Naturi Naughton)? Meanwhile, a thug strolls through this community, supposedly on parole yet flashing guns and beating brains out with impunity. That might not be unrealistic, but the character doesn’t fit comfortably in an essentially comic environment.
Video director Erik White’s debut film is an awkward one as he is unable to blend broad comedy with the uncomfortable ghetto realities in a story he dreamed up with screenwriter Abdul Williams. So he alternates between implausible slapstick and gooey melodrama. Ice Cube, one of the executive producers, gives himself the role of a recluse who sets Kevin straight. One can only wish such sagacity had been brought to bear on the production itself.