Hey, hey, hey! Fat Albert should have stayed away.
The big-screen “Fat Albert,” mostly a live-action update of Bill Cosby’s Saturday morning cartoon series, is a hokey, insipid, outdated mess that even the most nostalgic of parents and the most gullible of kids will have trouble embracing.
Five minutes in, the movie already is painful to watch, both for its idiotic premise and the knowledge that there’s nearly an hour and a half left.
The real-life incarnations of Albert and his pals are grating, with none of the goofy charm of their cartoon forebears. With his lumpy costume as the title character, Kenan Thompson looks less like the portly ghetto kid and more like what he is — a guy in a fat suit.
Executive producer Cosby, sharing screenwriting credit with Charles Kipps, and director Joel Zwick (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) deliver little more than uninspired chaos, a collection of bad comedy sketches loosely connected by a really dumb story.
The movie opens in ’toonland among Fat Albert and his Philly pals, including Rudy, Dumb Donald, Old Weird Harold and Mushmouth. It then meanders into the real world of Philadelphia, where teenager Doris (Kyla Pratt) lives a loner’s life, overlooked by the popular clique at school.
As she watches the “Fat Albert” show on TV, her teardrop splashing on the remote control magically opens a window into the cartoon. Hearing Doris’ cries and seeing her sad face, Albert climbs through the TV into the real world to help, followed by his posse.
Albert makes it his mission to win Doris some friends, and at the same time, he experiences first love with Doris’ knockout foster sister (Dania Ramirez) and encounters trouble with rival Reggie (singer Omari Grandberry).
The gang’s mission comes with a deadline: The longer they stay in the real world, the more their colors bleed away, and they have to return to their animated home before they vanish entirely.
This trivial plot is clumsily fleshed out with bad shtick, including the repetitive, unamusing befuddlement of Albert and his friends’ over such modern conveniences as pop-top soda cans, laptop computers and shopping malls.
The gang offers a truly agonizing rap take on the cartoon show’s theme song, with Albert’s repeated “Hey Hey Heys” so irritating you may want to stuff popcorn in your ears.
The movie’s mediocre performances might have been tolerable if the filmmakers had come up with engaging comedy and action. The movie’s only remotely funny line comes when Cosby pops up as himself in a brief encounter with Albert.
Cosby, a persistent critic of vulgar language in popular black entertainment, certainly does not raise the bar with this stinker, although he at least presents a wholesome, mild-tongued tale.
His filmmakers chose to make the characters older than they were in the cartoon. Yet that distances them from little kids who might have appreciated the cartoon’s comedy and unsophisticated message of generosity and inclusiveness, while teenagers will find the movie’s “Ozzie and Harriet” sensibility too corny to stomach.