"House Party" is in some ways just another teenage comedy, with a group of high schoolers planning a weeknight party and encountering problems with parents, police and tough punks who want to make their lives miserable.
Except that the teens in this case are black and the movie contains wall-to-wall music, including a rap showdown between the film's stars, the rap duo of Kid 'N' Play, that is a real highlight.
Kid is Christopher Reid, and he's the film's central focus as a smart and smart-aleck youngster, with hair that looks like a Russian hat (there are a lot of "Eraserhead" jokes). His widowed father won't let him go to the party because he got into trouble in school that day. But Kid, of course, sneaks out anyway and tries to get to the party before it plays out.
He's pursued by his father (comedian Robin Harris) and the young toughs he offended earlier in the day (played by Full Force: The George Brothers Paul Anthony, B. Fine and Bowlegged Lou), and also has encounters with the police and a high society gathering before he makes it.
At the party he is attracted to Sharane (A.J. Johnson), as is just about every other boy. But eventually he discovers that the girl more worthy of his attention is Sharane's best friend Sidney (Tisha Campbell).
There are the usual beer-drinking and sexual experiences associated with teen comedies, but here they are hand-in-hand with socially correct messages don't drink and drive, have safe sex or no sex. (One might quibble that a better message for teens would be abstinence in both cases, but most movies of this ilk suggest there are no consequences at all to drinking and promiscuity, so let's be grateful for what we've got.)
There are many aspects of this movie that are a bit too routine, as the plotting follows the expected formula from start to finish.
But what is most appealing about "House Party," and what sets it apart from many movies in the same genre, is that there is an energy and exuberance, a joy of living being celebrated here that is absolutely infectious. Further, the characters are all very well-drawn as individuals who are intelligent but still very much youngsters.
Written and directed by Reginald Hudlin and produced by his brother Warrington Hudlin, "House Party," rated R for some (relatively mild) profanity, vulgarity and violence, is an appealing first film.
And though the entire cast is sharp as can be, Kid in particular is a talent to watch in the future.