—About this Film pdf
There probably isn’t a 30-something year old person alive who can’t reminisce about watching Fat Albert every Saturday morning on CBS. Just about all of us can sing the theme song word for word. In the recesses of our minds we can still see that portly character declaring he’s “gonna sing a song for yooooouuu” with his fat finger pointing directly at the TV. We ate our cereal; we dug the funky music and had lots of fun. And, because we weren’t careful like Mr. Cosby warned us, we learned a thing or two before we were done.
32 years after that classic cartoon hit the airwaves…and nearly 40 years after Bill Cosby first introduced us to Fat Albert and the gang through his classic stand-up routines, this film has hit the screens. Opening on Christmas Day, the film has overcome some pretty harsh reviews to post a modest box office gross of nearly $50 million dollars. I find that interesting. I have some friends who told me to brace myself because the film was going to be a major flop. I believed them and became afraid…very afraid.
Walking out of the theatre, however, I felt…weird. I couldn’t put my finger on my reaction to the film after seeing it. After a couple of weeks of thinking about the film, a few words popped into my mind: virtue, truth, purity, love…
Philippians 4:8 reads “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” The more that I meditate on this passage of Scripture, the more I think of my experience of watching Fat Albert the movie.
My initial reaction was that some of the characters that came to life didn’t match the cartoon counterparts that I fully remember. The filmmakers got a few of them right: Mushmouth was truly a mush mouth. Dumb Donald was really dumb. Weird Harold was weird enough, and Fat Albert truly had a heart as big as his body. But I remember Russell (Bill’s little brother) being more of a pest in the cartoon than he was in the film and Rudy (the guy who wore the cool cap) being more of a pompous show off. However, in the film, they all were the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet. They all were really good kids
For me, in 21st century America, where negative stereotypes seem to follow teenagers everywhere they go (double that for African American teenage young men), this depiction was weird. It was almost like I was in a sort of parallel universe! I’m not used to seeing a bunch of guys with virtuous hearts as these kids. I dismissed those guys…and the film…as being unrealistic.
But, when I remember what Bill Cosby was trying to teach me back when I was a child watching that show on Saturday mornings, I remember that every lesson taught on that show was based on virtue and purity and strength of character. 30 years later, Mr. Cosby finds himself in the newspapers for making a bold and courageous stance for purity and character within the Black community. Why wouldn’t I expect the film to echo the same message?
And that message is echoed loud and clear in the film. Fat Albert and the gang truly want to help their new friend Doris to solve her problem. Doris spends most of the film declaring that she doesn’t have a problem; however when the gang is introduced to her school community, her problem becomes quite clear. A tragic loss in her family has caused her to lose her confidence and self-esteem. Through their connection, Doris eventually finds the strength she needs to continue with her young and promising life. We also learn the connection between Fat Albert the cartoon character and one of Doris’s family members as well.
Mr. Cosby does make a cameo…a quite brief one…in which he tries to convince Fat Albert to return back to TV land where he and the gang belong. Fat Albert doesn’t want to leave because of the bond he’s formed with Doris’s adopted sister. Even that plot thread is handled very lovely and admirable.
Fat Albert, the film, is one of the living personifications of Philippians 4:8. The world (and many film critics) may scoff at the film for its simplicity and old fashioned style and message. But it’s a message that barely anyone can find fault in. Both kids and their parents are gonna have a good time watching this film.
To paraphrase our hero, Hey Hey Hey, see Fat Albert! It’ll truly make your day!
—About this Film pdf