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MOVIE REVIEW

Satire in 'White Chicks' hardly goes skin-deep

The bratty, blond socialites Shawn and Marlon Wayans impersonate in "White Chicks" are vain, shallow, ignorant, addicted to designer labels, rude to people of color, and possibly soulless. But white? Not so much.

The Wayanses' brown skin and long athletic frames are hidden beneath elaborate prosthetic suits and flaxen wigs that make them look, alternately, like life-size Barbie dolls and the ceramic Michael Jackson of that famous Jeff Koons sculpture: subhumanly artificial. Their lack of physical resemblance to actual spoiled dingbats goes unnoticed by everybody in this patchy, inept satire.

But the movie doesn't care about biological whiteness so much as its cultural twin, and, on that front, the movie's timing really couldn't be any better. White girls' flaunty entitlement might be displacing hip-hop materialism as popular culture's number one attitude. Lindsay Lohan was thoroughly obnoxious in "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," only to reform and square off against mean girls; the global popularity of Britney Spears cannot be stopped; people love Jessica Simpson's brilliant dimness and can't stop reading best-selling junk food such as "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Bergdorf Blondes." Meanwhile, West Coast princesses Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie run amok, again, through middle America.

Into this explosion of girls behaving badly step the Wayanses, comedians capable of spotting the trend (or is it an epidemic?) and brutalizing it. Shawn and Marlon play Kevin and Marcus Copeland, two ne'er-do-well FBI agents given a probationary assignment to escort hotel heiresses the Wilson sisters, Brittany and Tiffany (Maitland Ward and Anne Dudek), from their private jet to the Hamptons for Labor Day. There's a car accident. The girls get scratches on their faces and refuse to be seen with boo-boos. But the Wilsons need to arrive safe and sound or Kevin and Marcus will be fired. So rather than explain the truth to their irritable chief (Frankie Faison), they call in the bureau's masters of disguise to turn them into impostor Wilson sisters, who arrive at the Hamptons just in time to fool everybody -- nemeses and fake friends alike -- into thinking that these taller, kinder, more albino-looking girls are the real things. The actual Wilsons sit and pout somewhere in Manhattan. (Oh, I forgot to mention that the sisters are also the objects of a kidnapping plot.)Those waiting to see entitled girls savaged for 100 minutes will probably find "White Chicks" the year's most disappointing movie. Marlon, Shawn, and Keenen Ivory Wayans, who directs "White Chicks" -- and barely -- also made the first two installments of "Scary Movie," which showed us white popular culture through black eyes. The view was unprecedented and, for the most part, outrageous and entertainingly stupid. Only occasionally does the movie, which Shawn and Marlon wrote with three other people, play fast and loose with racial difference in a way that produces any legitimate laughs. The fake sisters, in one very funny example, hop in a car with three of the Wilsons' pals, who flip out when Vanessa Carlton's three-year-old preppy ditty "A Thousand Miles" comes on the radio (it's their "jam"), and the fake Wilsons encourage them to listen to an R-rated rap song instead. The friends object because it contains the "N" word. One sister says, "Nobody's around," so the whole car breaks into bumptious obscenities.

More often, the movie makes a beeline for bathroom jokes, assorted antics, and side plots. Marcus is chasing a pretty journalist, while Kevin is running from his suspicious wife and a muscle-bound, self-hating playboy who's addicted to white women. The playboy is played by the very funny Terry Crews, of "Baadasssss!" and "Soul Plane," who seems to be spending his year stealing scenes in neo-blaxploitation movies. When he's around, the movie has the antic spirit of low-low-rent Marx Brothers.

Otherwise, Keenen Ivory Wayans treats "White Chicks" not as burlesque or farce but as an action comedy that wouldn't seem fresh if it came out in 1984. The film feels long when it should be brisk, and it's bloated with stretches of hot, dead air. The racial kitsch goes nowhere. That's unfortunate: White chicks from the Olsens to the Hiltons are here for the skewering, but the shabby jabs by the Wayanses mean these sisters will have to do it for themselves.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com.

White Chicks
Directed by: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Written by: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Andy McElfresh, Michael Anthony Snowden, and Xavier Cook
Starring: MarlonWayans, Shawn Wayans, Brittany Daniel, Terry Crews, Frankie Faison, Lochlyn Munro, Jaime King, and John Heard
At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs
Running time: 111 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (crude and sexual humor, language, drug content)
**

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