Get your wash on

Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg amuse themselves with The Wash

It’s all about the music with The Wash. Although Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre play a kind of comedy team as a pair of car wash employees, the film never lets you forget their standing as hip-hop artists. Early in the film, a DJ (the radio kind) hypes the premiere of a new Dogg and Dre song, which he plays later on. The closing credits offer a complete Dr. Dre video, and somewhere in the middle someone reads a copy of Dub magazine with Snoop on the cover.

It’s good business to appeal to your fan base but better business to try to expand on it. House Party 11 years ago proved to be more than just a showcase for Kid ‘n’ Play but an amusing, sturdily built comedy in its own right. Written and directed by Friday scripter DJ Pooh, The Wash doesn’t make much of an effort to appeal to casual or crossover audiences.

Cinematically, The Wash’s credits provide its most interesting moment, offering a series of black-and-white stills that show Sean (Dr. Dre) getting fired from his job at Foot Locker. He’s too broke to pay his share of the rent or get his car un-booted, but his roommate Dee Loc (Snoop Dogg) points him to an opening at the car wash where he works.

Some aspects of The Wash work against its bid for laughs, like the near constant threat of shootings: Sean gets a gun put to his head in one of the first scenes and sees a pistol brandished by car wash owner Mr. Washington, aka “Mr. Wash” (played by comic George Wallace) during their interview. It’s not surprising that there’s a lot of hip-hop on The Wash’s soundtrack, since the music is a major part of its characters’ sonic landscape, but the deep, thudding bass notes and the staccato assertions of the rappers can give the film a dark mood that’s not conducive for jokes — particularly ones based on bathroom noises and “bikini wash” fantasies.

The Wash relies on cameos for much of its humor, like Tommy Chong as Dee Loc’s strung-out drug supplier (imagine!), Pauly Shore as a panicky guy in a Mafioso’s trunk and Eminem as a bellowing nutcase who keeps threatening Mr. Wash over the phone. Regular fixtures at the car wash include an obese security guard and a too-cool-for-you receptionist, but none are drawn as more than sketches.

The film’s only real tension comes from Sean’s uneasy new role as Dee Loc’s supervisor — a thankless task, as his friend comes to work only to deal dope and meet ladies. (But you can’t say Dee Loc’s not a gentleman — when he escorts a willing woman to the employee bathroom, he puts a paper towel on the sink before they have sex on it.) Though Sean has pressing money needs, we never see him do anything about them, with Dre drifting blandly through the role.

Snoop seems to want to be a movie star as much as Elvis did, with The Wash being his third major film role of 2001, not counting cameos like the one in Training Day. He’s more believable and entertaining as a grumpy pothead than a bloodthirsty gangsta (his persona in Bones and Baby Boy), but whenever he’s on film he seems to have only two expressions — stoned languor and peevish menace.

The Wash’s most amusing bits happen in the background, like a ghetto lawyer’s billboard that reads “I gits you yo money, main!” or the way the jacked-up tires of Sean and Dee Loc’s cars rise and fall with grinding hydraulic sounds. And the story rouses itself in its last act, when some dim-witted gangbangers kidnap Mr. Wash. DJ Pooh gives himself the film’s funniest role as the dumbest kidnapper.

You watch The Wash convinced that Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and DJ Pooh found the film a chance to hang out, amuse themselves on camera and share their party tape with the audience. Which is fine if you’re a fan, but much less satisfying if your movie requirements include comic timing, attractive lighting, clear audio or any sort of ending. Buy a ticket for The Wash, and you might feel like your wallet’s been cleaned out.??