Reviewed by: Richard F. Schmitz
Starring: Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer, Eugene Byrd | Directed by: Curtis Hanson | Produced by: Curtis Hanson, Brian Grazer, Jimmy Iovine | Written by: Scott Silver | Distributor: Universal Pictures
In the new Eminem vehicle “8 Mile”, broken relationships are sometimes patched over with a used car. Makes sense, I guess, considering “8 Mile” is set in Detroit. What doesn’t make sense, however, is the underlying point of this movie: freestyle rapping, which amounts to viciously insulting someone at random, in rhyme, in front of a crowd after a DJ makes odd noises with vinyl on a turntable. Why is this done, and to what purpose? This more fundamental question is not addressed in “8 Mile”.
As a Christian parent of teenage daughters, I was at first happy to hear that our small town’s movie theater wasn’t going to show the film. But the theater did show “8 Mile”, and in a moment of weakness I allowed my kids to attend. I watched as well.
Truth be told, there were aspects of “8 Mile” that were likeable and well-crafted. The characters, led by Eminem, strive for something more than the hip hop stereotype, and are at times multidimensional. Some scenes of the film are impressive, particularly the final scene, a rap showdown between Eminem and his enemies in a dark, crowded nightclub.
At first, the film seems headed in the direction of “Rocky”: the gritty urban underdog seeking respect and success in a violent milieu. But “8 Mile” never achieves Rocky’s sense of purpose or satisfaction. In fact, in some places “8 Mile” seems to bog down. We know where it’s heading, but it seems to take a long time to get there, and besides, the place that its going to isn’t much of an improvement over where it starts.
The cast is fine, but Kim Basinger is completely over the top as Eminem’s trailer trash mom. She’s just not believable.
From a moral standpoint, “8 Mile” is no worse than most of what Hollywood has to offer. There’s no particularly graphic violence to speak of. And there is no direct anti-Christian message, such as is found in, say, “Pleasantville”. One character expresses interest in a relationship with Christ, making the point that doing so will make him a better person. Another character is altruistic in a more secular way. And Eminem is cast as a basic decent human being—even tenderhearted at times.
But Eminem also has no problem dumping a girlfriend when he discovers she’s pregnant (he gives her a car), and he has no problem having sex (in an extremely graphic minute or two scene) with a woman he’s known for about 15 minutes. As for language, “8 Mile” is basically one continuous “F” word.
A few months ago, I caught a Bill Moyers special on PBS, and I thought of it as I watched “8 Mile”. It tracked an inner city African-American family dealing with job loss and violence and other gritty, urban ills. Instead of rapping vile insults, the dad worked two jobs, the second as a lay preacher at a small church. The mom sold real estate from a small rented office. The kids worked after school. Love, family and faith in God lifted this family through failure and success. It’s too bad Hollywood won’t focus on these folks, and lift them up as role models to teens and young adults, instead of the self-loathing, defeatist and degenerate Hip Hop culture.
“8 Mile” offers parents an opportunity for serious conversation with teens. It did me, at least. Other than that, there is little good in this movie, and it certainly should not be seen by anyone under 18.