Trapped In The Closet: Chapters 1-12 (2005)

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This bizarre masterpiece is an early example of the internet really making a difference. Back in 2005, when the first 12 chapters were released on DVD (it’s now up to 33), the reception this received was a thing of great joy. Parodies exploded all over the place, people re-edited it and just plain laughed their asses off at it. Despite R Kelly’s absolute seriousness about his endeavour at this point, by the release of the second volume a couple of years later it was clear Kelly was in on the joke, and therefore the entire thing became less funny.

If you were around for the initial release hubbub, then I won’t have a lot extra to add to that, but to prepare for this review I not only watched it again but enjoyed the special Kelly Commentary Remix, where we watch R watch the show, puffing on a cigar, providing a running commentary, telling us what to look out for, and so on. This is possibly the most amazing thing you’ll ever see, so I highly recommend picking this up on DVD and allowing him to take you through it.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the plot of this. It starts with R in bed with a woman who isn’t his wife, and then snowballs to ludicrous proportions almost immediately. The woman’s husband is a pastor, and it turns out he’s gay and brings his boyfriend to the house; then R goes home, and his wife is also cheating on him with a cop (Michael Kenneth Williams from “The Wire”), so the cop goes home to his wife, who’s cheating on him with a midget, who’s also responsible for her pregnancy. Turns out that the wife and the mistress know each other; that R was pulled over by the cop earlier that day; that the midget is being paid for his bedroom services by persons unknown; that R’s brother-in-law Twan can recover from a gunshot wound in minutes; and so on, and so forth.

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12 chapters, 40 minutes, and each one ends on a cliffhanger of some sort. No matter all the mockery it’s had levelled at it, the truly bizarre thing is why it exists at all. Black-focused channels like BET have their own programming, including soap operas that by network TV standards would be little better than filmed one-set plays, so perhaps Kelly is a fan of those? Did he want another career, but similar to Tyler Perry’s? Just what was he thinking? A strange question for a man with as many “odd” vices as Mr. Kelly, perhaps.

Primary plot movers in this first section are a gay guy and a midget (well, and a cherry pie allergy, but we’ll let that slide). Now, Kelly deals with these characters in the same way that TV shows did in the 80s – he says, in the end, they’re just like normal people, but does a heck of a lot of pointing in amazement at the sheer fact of their existence beforehand. In a way, it’s fascinating as it appears to be a fairly unvarnished look into the recesses of someone’s mind – Kelly was so famous at this point that he could get stuff like this made, and was writer, producer and director as well as performing all the songs and starring. It’s like a millionaire’s outsider art.

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My favourite bit is when he talks about how he does different voices for all the characters. He explains this in a scene involving the two guys and the initial cheat-ee, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell the tiniest difference in his delivery for the three people. The only genuinely different voice he does is for the sole white member of the cast, the cop’s wife Bridget, and she gets a goofy Southern accent.

This whole bit demonstrates how pleased he is with himself about this – whatever we may have thought of it, Kelly absolutely loves it. The cliffhangers, when it’s never been presented in a way where those every-three-minutes cliffhangers are appropriate; the mass of complicated relationships that start overwhelming you by the third “chapter”; the insane coincidences in these peoples’ lives; that a couple are fine if both of them cheat at the same time…it’s a completely unique thing, that’s for sure.

“Trapped In The Closet” now stands at 33 chapters, and Kelly may well make more (although his star is a great deal less bright now than it was in 2005). I’d avoid the rest of them, though, but part 1 is a shining example of just what can happen when one person is allowed this much leeway, and should be treasured like the classic it is.

Rating: thumbs up

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