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I don't expect a lot of people saw the Fat Albert live-action film, and good for them. I did see the film--I was going through something at the time--and this morning a friend reminded me of it.

Listen. I know it's unfair to ask anyone to see Fat Albert, but it might actually be worth your time solely for its unexpected creepiness. For one thing, after the Fat Albert gang gets zapped into the real world--I really can't remember how it all happens, but I suspect that in the script the word "zapped" was considered a sufficient explanation to cover the physics of this phenomenon--they slowly, gradually begin to fade into nothingness. That is a central narrative force in the film. Over the course of the movie, Albert and his friends become increasingly faded, pale-skinned, and ashy. Eventually, some of them grow transparent, nearly invisible. This device is utterly creepy, and not at all suitable for a big-budget movie for kids. It would have felt very natural in Angels in America but, because Fat Albert isn't an AIDS allegory (as far as I know), the effect of making mushmouth and dumb donald ashen and weak leaves you feeling uncomfortabl slack-jawed.

But giving the Cosby Kids™ AIDS isn't Fat Albert's greatest crime. The real reason you should see this film is its final scene. Even if you just have to fast-forward all the way to the end, it is absolutely worth it. OK. Think for a minute. This is Fat Albert: The Movie. A big summery adaptation of an old Bill Cosby cartoon, filled with colorful kids, music, fat suits, etc. How should a film like this end? With a bunch of kids lifting Fat Albert up on their shoulders? With a parade and streamers, or a freeze-frame as Fat Albert crosses the finish line in his shoddily-constructed soap box racer, with his nemesis—the wealthy, spoiled, cheating Farnsworth Greedsworth—in the background, covered in black exhaust smoke, and cursing his own broken-down derby racer? With a rap-off? about a plaintive moment where several old men--the real-life inspirations for the Fat Albert characters--slowly gather around the grave site of Albert Robertson, the real-life inspiration for Fat Albert himself. Yes, the Fat Albert your child has been watching dance, sing, and buck-buck his way through the last 90 minutes of this film IS ACTUALLY DEAD. And to prove it, here's his grave. Also, in case you were curious, the other characters you've been tolerating in this film, while alive, are old, scary men who can barely walk. I think one of them had tubes in his nose. It's like ending a live-action version of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," with a shot of a very old man in a Charlie Brown shirt, slumped in a wheelchair, where he's remained since he was twelve years old and was paralyzed after being struck with a baseball during a little league game. It says a lot about Bill Cosby's creative control when a major studio was willing to release a blockbuster children's film with an ending that was borrowed from the final scene of Saving Private Ryan.

WE FIRST MET ON 08.13.2007

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