I’ve seen Boyz N the Hood a few times, but the last time had to be at least 15 years ago. I was curious to see it again when I noticed it playing on cable recently. It definitely shows its age, but it’s retained its impact and remains required viewing.
The boyz are three teens, Trey “Tre” Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and twin brothers Ricky (Morris Chestnut) and Darrin “Doughboy” Baker (Ice Cube). The hood is the Crenshaw neighborhood of South Central L.A. The boyz met when they were 10 and Tre moved in with his father, Furious (Laurence Fishburne), after his mother (Angela Bassett) decided it was time for a man to raise him. Now, Tre is getting ready to go to college, football recruiters are courting Ricky, and Doughboy is in a gang and making a half-assed attempt not to end up in jail again. It’s apparent that their choices have put them on different paths that already are removing them from each other. Furious is okay with that—especially when a senseless shooting rocks Tre’s world.
In his debut, writer/director John Singleton takes a powerful and realistic look at the problems that still plague American cities: racism (internalized racism, too), segregation, economics, education, parenting, violence, addiction. To his credit, he doesn’t glorify any of it. His characters are multidimensional, into the same things that all teenage boys are: sharp clothes (and, yes, they’re awful), chasing girls, playing games, driving cool cars. Even the not-so-good kids have dignity. When shit happens, Singleton pulls us into it along with his characters. For example, we feel the sting when the Baker boys’ mother (Tyra Ferrell) unleashes her attitude on Doughboy. We also experience a shot of adrenaline when an ominous car chases Tre and Ricky up and down back alleys. It helps that the cast is fantastic.
Nominated for an Academy Award for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay in 1992 (https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1992), Boyz N the Hood still resonates despite its tendency to lapse into short spells of preachiness. Perhaps it’s because things haven’t changed as much in 25 years as we’d like to believe.
In 2002, the United States Library of Congress deemed Boyz N the Hood “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).