In a particularly lean year for comedy, I’m pleased (and surprised) to report this biopic of radio DJ Petey Greene is on course to be the funniest thing out this year. A genuinely well written and emotionally honest (if a little factually inaccurate) this is powerful and engaging stuff. Don Cheadle in the lead role makes a real shout for recognition and the always reliable Chewitel Ejiofor is superb in support meaning that this is one of the few films that warrants repeat viewing, and with so many films coming out at the moment that’s saying something.
While managing a smalltime local radio station Dewey Hughes (Ejiofor) crosses paths with jailbird DJ Petey Greene (Cheadle). Hughes is on a short leash and goes out on a limb to employ Greene who quickly finds an audience by talking the truth. The pair make a formidable team, and the jovial work environment is only offset by the political and racial tensions they are surrounded by. They survive it all making one of the most popular black radio programmes that reach out to a divided community, however as Dewey aims for the stars Greene wants to keep his feet firmly on the ground and is happy being a big fish in a small pond. As national fame beckons on TV, the pair are set on a collision course that will change their fortunes forever.
Given the serious subject matter, the fact that you will be laughing out loud (especially in the superb first hour) means this might not come across as a biopic of a particularly important individual. That would be a false starting point however, because although a UK audience might not be familiar with Greene, is impression on the other side of the Atlantic is huge. A forerunner for many motormouth talkshow hosts and black stand-up icons, Greene maintains a cult status and from what we see here its easy to see why. The film is immensely enjoyable, fascinating to watch and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Given that the performances are just as strong as the script, this is one of the best films around. Definitely worth catching.