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Bill Cosby "Himself" (October 25/04)

Bill Cosby "Himself" is an overlong concert movie featuring - of course - comedian Bill Cosby performing his act before a packed house in the early '80s. And while there are some bits here that are fairly humorous, too much of the film finds Cosby dwelling on material that simply isn't all that funny.

Shot at the Hamilton Place Performing Arts Center (which is just outside of Toronto), the film features an early glimpse into the sort of comedy that would form the basis of The Cosby Show just two years later. As such, a good portion of Cosby's act features the comedian talking about his family - specifically, his efforts to raise five kids with his wife. The trouble is, the entire first half of the movie is devoted to tales about going to the dentist and other assorted anecdotes that just aren't all that interesting. Worse still, Cosby augments such moments with extremely broad instances of physical comedy - making exaggerated facial gestures and the like - which are superfluous and unnecessary. Cosby excels at just telling stories; anything beyond that is just a distraction.

Fortunately, Cosby devotes the entirety of the film's final act to jokes and anecdotes about his family - something that makes it easy enough to overlook the fact that most of his punchlines aren't all that funny (to be fair, I did laugh once or twice). This emphasis on his own children, however, does lead to a few awkward moments in which he discusses his son Ennis (who was tragically shot to death years later). Still, there's no denying that Cosby is a master storyteller; even when spinning yarns that aren't even meant to be all that humorous, it's hard not to be enthralled by his genial and engaging demeanor.

Bill Cosby "Himself" would probably be best enjoyed by those who are already fans of Cosby's unique style of comedy, as the movie isn't always accessible to newcomers.

out of

About the DVD: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Bill Cosby "Himself" in both letterboxed and full-screen versions, along with the film's trailer.