“Janky Promoters” is the latest gleefully low-brow buddy comedy pairing Ice Cube and Mike Epps. Here, the duo star as a pair of improbably incompetent concert promoters. Russell Redds (Cube) and Jellyroll (Epps) have just struck a deal with popular hip-hop artist Young Jeezy (playing himself), and have less than 24 hours to finalize the logistics, despite the fact that they have less than $1,000 between them.
Thus begins a series of increasingly grating misadventures, as Russell and Jellyroll seek to con their way into having a successful show. The filmmakers could have made the lead characters more likeable, despite their slacker status. As it stands, despite the efforts of Cube and Epps, Russell and Jellyroll mainly come across as boorish clowns that you want to fail—Russell steals his fiancée’s checkbook to pay his share of the concert costs, and Jellyroll brags to a reality-TV crew that he’s sleeping with a married woman (Character actors Tamala Jones and Glenn Plummer are wasted as the unfaithful wife and her cuckolded husband, respectively.)
It’s hard to sympathize with most of the characters here; they to be reflexively foul-mouthed and defiantly ignorant. Among the parade of eccentrics are a sex-starved manager, star-struck hotel maids and a mom who prepares crack like it’s Sunday dinner. One of the few bright spots involves Russell’s teen son ‘Young Seymour’ (James "Lil’ JJ" Lewis), an amateur rapper who nonetheless thinks he’s entitled to a room-crowding entourage. Russell’s unabashed encouragement of Seymour’s dancers to rump-shake more inadvertently highlights the recurring critique of rap-as-sexploitation.
Taking into account such film phenomena as the Farrelly Brothers, Wedding Crashers and The Hangover, ‘slob comedies’ clearly have a place and an audience. Still, Promoters isn’t likely to entice viewers beyond the converted. Looking at the broader themes in the film (fly-by-night promoters, vapid stars and their hangers-on, dope-dealers who want in on the action), it could have been a more clever satire of behind-the-scenes goings-on in the hip-hop music industry (the screenplay credit goes to Ice Cube.) Yet the film functions as an unofficial sequel to the Friday movie series—in fact, given the cult popularity of those films, it’s unclear why the filmmakers didn’t go that route. Unless viewers are Ice Cube or Mike Epps completists, Promoters is a rental at best.