Heartfelt, and certainly more serious than funny, this story of a young man living in the projects who wins a $370 million jackpot combines a very clever premise with an energetic execution.
Bow Wow plays Kevin Carson, an 18-year-old Footlocker salesman living with his grandmother (Loretta Devine) in an Atlanta housing project who discovers he’s the owner of the winning lottery ticket, but as it’s the Fourth of July holiday, he has to wait a few days before he can claim the cash.
As news of his windfall spreads throughout the neighborhood, thanks to nosy neighbor Semaj (Charlie Murphy), Kevin is forced to spend the next few days fleeing from a loan shark, an ex convict, and the local reverend who all want a portion of the cash.
With a star cast that includes Keith David as the self-titled ‘Godfather of the hood’, this ‘make 'em laugh’ film, although entertaining, falls a little short in the laughter division, despite its casting of comedians Bill Bellamy and funny man Mike Epps. Still, what it lacks in humor it makes up with a morally redeeming message.
Ice Cube, who also executive produces, stars as Mr. Washington, an elderly recluse living in a basement apartment. Partly based on famed boxing trainer Naseem Richardson with a little Joe Frazier mixed in, his character is one of Kevin's few supporters.
"Kevin’s a guy being kicked to the curb for one reason or another,” says Cube. “The whole world was against him, until he got something--the winning ticket--and now everybody loves him and that's when the fun begins. Everybody in the hood is after him. I loved playing Mr. Washington and it's the first chance I've had to play somebody like that an older cat with wisdom. I know my father was wondering why I kept watching him and looking at all his mannerisms. He caught me looking at him a few times, but I was trying to pull from his energy. Like my father, Mr. Washington has that kind of energy and old-school wisdom.”
Naughton and Jackson play Kevin’s buddies, Benny and Stacie, with Gbenga Akinnagbe (“The Wire”) rounding off the main cast as Lorenzo, the ex con who tries to steal the lottery ticket.
With a fairly predictable plot, there’s nothing profound about this warm hearted film, and although it stumbles in the comedy department, its heart is in the right place for director Erik White manages to sweeten several serious messages about the ordeals of life and trials of friendship with comic antics.