We the Party


A self-financed passion project, We the Party grew out of writer-director-star Mario Van Peebles’s self-described “incognegro” infiltration of the social life of his teenage kids, who in turn play major roles in the movie. Seventeen-year-old Mandela Van Peebles stars as Hendrix, a middle-class junior at the L.A. high school where his divorced mom and dad (Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Mario Van Peebles) work as principal and hip-ish, highly motivational teacher, respectively. Hendrix lusts after the gorgeous daughter (Simone Battle) of a school cop (Michael Jai White) and makes a bet with his buddies—tech-savvy Obama (Makaylo Van Peebles), fat rich kid Chowder (Patrick Cage II), runt Quicktime (Moises Arias), and gawky skater Que (Ryan Vigil)—that whoever loses his virginity first gets, um, a $100 gift card. The centerpiece of the movie is a house party Hendrix throws to make money for a car, a parent-friendly, squeaky-clean affair threatened only when crashed by the mysterious CC (rapper Y.G.) and his gangsta brother (Snoop Dogg). Van Peebles’s heart is probably in the right place, but his attempt to wed his kids’ generational moment to a classic coming-of-age template falters in its message-obsessed execution. We the Party‘s barely there drama is merely a hanger for preachy stay-in-school bromides (“minimum effort now leads to minimum wage later!”; “smart is the new gangsta!”), while CC (whose name stands for “Conscious Criminal”) is ultimately just Hendrix’s black-swan reminder of the horrors of the ghetto that await him if he doesn’t keep his grades up. Meanwhile, the film’s heroes get up to some truly creepy shit—up-skirt surveilling their female classmates, enacting revenge on a bully by triggering his peanut allergy—the moral implications and real-world consequences of which Van Peebles completely avoids.