Marlon Wayans has gone soft, and it’s the best thing that could’ve happened for his film career.

That’s not to say his recent movies have been duds.  Fifty Shades of Black wasn’t my bag, but I was a fan of his Haunted House series and his first Netflix original Naked (all were directed by Michael Tiddes). They were immature, over-the-line comedies, but they made me laugh.  But as a writer, a producer, and a movie star, we can see Marlon Wayans striving for more meaning in his movies.  He’s been gradually stepping away from crass improvisation, and moving towards stories that viewers can identify with.  Movies that, while mildly inappropriate, a family could watch on a Friday night.

The trailer for Sextuplets is brash and filled with physical gags that remind us of commercial comedies from the Wayans staple that pre-date Marlon’s solo career (White Chicks, Little Man).  But, Sextuplets is actually a movie that’s sweeter than those prior features.  Like Naked, Sextuplets has a sentimental core about wanting to become a better person.  It’s played more broadly this time around, but the film carries the same brand of charm that allows itself to be silly while also being genuine.

Alan (Marlon Wayans) is determined to discover his biological family before he starts one of his own with his pregnant wife (Bresha Webb).  Out of the convenience of the screenplay, Alan’s uncovers the mystery of his past before he was adopted – he has five siblings.  As you’ve either seen or heard, Wayans does portray everyone in his family tree ala make-up transformations and prosthetics (including a special guest towards the end of the film).  As Alan, Wayans works a straight-man routine, which he keeps improving on with each movie.  The other personalities boil down to impressions of pop culture characters or examples from the actor’s comedy catalogue.  For instance, obese TV junkie Russell plays like a cross between Ghostbusters’ Louis Tully and The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy, slickster scam artist Ethan reminded me of a spot-on piss-take of In Living Color co-star Tommy Davidson, and mixed-race Jaspar is essentially Wayans’ “uptight white guy” routine.  If you don’t know any of these references, Alan’s family may just read as a collection of stock characters.  However, Sextuplets gets away with these clichés because Wayans puts in the proper effort to make each personality hold their own screen presence. 

While it isn’t as revolutionary as Eddie Murphy’s juggling act in the Klumps franchise, the split-screen effect in Sextuplets is still really impressive.  It also helps reign in the “freewheeling” qualities of Wayans’ acting and Michael Tiddes direction.  It’s a filmmaking technique that needs calculation.  By showing that they have the nerve to challenge themselves, Wayans and Tiddes have grown – once again – as filmmakers.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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