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True Identity (1991) Charles Lane, the director of this satirical farce called True Identity , caught the tail of a funny idea — a young black actor has… R PT93M Comedy Drama Charles Lane Frank Langella Lenny Henry Anne-Marie Johnson James Earl Jones Peggy Lipton Michael McKean J.T. Walsh Buena Vista Home Video
Movie Review

True Identity (1991)

MPAA Rating: R

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EW's GRADE
C-

Details Rated: R; Length: 93 minutes; Genres: Comedy, Drama; With: Charles Lane, Frank Langella and Lenny Henry; Distributor: Buena Vista Home Video

Charles Lane, the director of this satirical farce called True Identity, caught the tail of a funny idea — a young black actor has to disguise himself as a white guy — without quite realizing why it was a funny idea. Miles (Lenny Henry), who dreams of starring in Othello, stumbles onto the secret identity of a Mafia bigwig (Frank Langella). To avoid getting whacked, he allows his friend (Lane), a special effects expert on low-grade horror films, to do him up as a Caucasian. Pursued by the mobster's henchmen, Miles, wearing pounds of makeup, ends up passing himself off as one of them. The setup sounds promising, in part because black comics such as Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy have spent many hilarious moments skewering the fear, pomposity, and obliviousness hidden within the confident surface of middle-class white style. In True Identity, Henry, a British comic, simply impersonates a cliche: the thick-witted Mafia thug. Since Henry is fairly bland to begin with (in this role, at least, he has the wholesome sprightliness of a Midwestern college freshman), Miles has no personality to submerge. The movie is like Tootsie remade as a one-joke sitcom. C-

Originally posted Aug 30, 1991 Published in issue #81 Aug 30, 1991 Order article reprints