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Marlon Wayans Finds His Stride with ‘Sextuplets’

In his latest Netflix venture, Marlon Wayans tackles the same challenges as some of the comedic greats before him, most notably Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.  In his new film Sextuplets, the industry veteran plays not one, not two, but six characters.  If I am gonna keep it all the way real, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the work.  While I was not particularly impressed by his Woke-ish stand-up special, I think with this film, Marlon has found his comedic niche.  (It is also worth noting that I have very particular sensibilities when it comes to stand-up – but y’all probably already knew that.)     

On the verge of becoming a father, 38-year-old Allen, who was raised in a foster home, sets out to meet the family he never knew when he discovers he is a sextuplet.  Adventures ensue as he travels the country meeting his siblings. It turns out that growing up separately in the foster system has impacted each of them in unique and weirdly hilarious ways.

I think part of my ability to appreciate this movie was fueled by my renewed commitment to really engaging with work on its own terms.  Prior to viewing the film I watched and read several short interviews with Marlon, one of which was a lovely tribute to his family and his own evolution as a writer, actor, comedian, and producer.  

The technical feats of this film are impressive.  Marlon juggled lines and blocking for six characters and made us laugh in the process. The fact that the audience does not feel the gaps in terms of his presence is a testament to his talent as well as that of his team.  If you haven’t already watched, here is a quick description of the siblings in hopes that you will want to get to know them yourself.  

 

Meet the Family

 

Left to Right: Baby Pete, Russell, Jasper, Alan, Ethan, and Dawn

Alan is the sibling that sets the reunion in motion.  Criticized by his father-in-law for not having a family, he is the one who musters the courage to search for them.  He is a regular guy, with a slightly silly side. However, having to deal with the large personalities of his newfound siblings brings out a sharper side of him. 

Russell is a socially awkward man-child who loves nothing more than to watch old television shows and eat cereal.  When he sets out on the road with his new brother it becomes quite clear this will be a trip of many firsts for him.  Despite his brashness and his addiction to Cookie Crisps and Lucky Charms, Russell is quite loyal and his honesty is valuable and hilarious. 

Ethan is a small-time hustler who walks and talks like a pimp from the 1970s.  At first glance he seems like a regular con, but once we get to know him we realize that more his rough exterior is a result of a difficult upbringing.  Once shown kindness, he opens up and his communication around his gratefulness is still rooted in street talk and makes for some interesting explanations.  

Dawn is first introduced to Allen as she is serving a sentence for assault.  Upon being released we quickly understand why. The free-spirited sibling is the only girl in the family.  While she initially reads as stereotypically ratchet, she catches you off guard with some of her intellectual insight.  One thing is for sure, she will not hesitate to protect the ones she loves. 

Baby Pete is, unfortunately, the sickly one in the family. Despite meeting him on what may very well be his death bed, Baby Pete (which is his legal name) makes you wonder what kind of life he led prior to being hospitalized.  He has also been featured in a meme that has gone viral. 

Jasper is a straight-up psychopath.  He is some sort of off-the-grid intelligence operative with a coldness instilled from him as a child being raised as a part of a government experiment.  And being his sibling does not necessarily spare you his wrath.   

***

Sextuplets is a movie that serves as a true testament to Marlon’s stamina and talent.  It is also a great example of how building hilariously distinct characters is hard work that pays off.  I am happy and proud to witness and enjoy the benefits of Marlon’s journey of self-discovery and self-actualization. 

MJ VanDevere

MJ VanDevere is a doctoral candidate at a predominately white elite institution in the South who uses humor to combat racism, sexism, and all the other –isms that seek to diminish her greatness. She is a self-proclaimed “stand-up snob” who does not have a favorite comedian, so please don't ask unless you have several hours to spare. Some of her favorite movies include, Life, Dead Presidents, and Happy Feet. If, she could only do one thing for the rest of her life, it would definitely be laugh, and maybe write. Adulting is her greatest work in progress.

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