CINEMA: A Tree Strives in Brooklyn

Spike Lee's story of a middle-class family wrestles with the anguish of kids trying to grow up smart and good

Spike Lee is better at setting agendas than he is at making movies. The laudable intention behind Crooklyn is, he says, to move beyond "the hip-hop, drug, gangsta-rap, urban-inner-city movies," which he claims constitute "a rut" into which black filmmakers have fallen. He has a point, though some of his competitors' work (for example, The Inkwell) has shown more range than he cares to admit. What he does not have here is a movie that attractively accomplishes his goal.

The Carmichaels are a middle-class black family living in Brooklyn in the early '70s. The father, Woody (Delroy Lindo), is a jazz...

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