By Leah Rozen
October 16, 2000 12:00 PM

Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett Smith, Savion Glover, Tommy Davidson

Spike Lee’s latest movie, a savage satire about the depiction of blacks on TV shows and in movies, is more about ideas than characters. It skitters badly off track near the end, but its first half displays the writer-director-provocateur at his argumentative, excoriating best.

Pierre Delacroix (Wayans) is a Harvard-educated writer at a fictional television network who is fed up with seeing his fellow African-Americans sing, dance and act dumb on TV. “The network does not want to see ‘Negroes’ on TV unless they’re idiots,” he complains. He facetiously proposes a new program, a regressive minstrel show (complete with tap-dancing stars in blackface who nibble on watermelon) that Delacroix figures will be so offensive it will make his point. Instead, the show becomes a smash hit and Delacroix finds himself seduced by success and money. His disapproving assistant (Pinkett Smith) pointedly presents him with an antique toy mechanical bank with a Jim Crow figure popping coins into its mouth.

No one is safe from Lee’s scathing wrath, not hip-hop-centric designer Tommy Hilfiger, lawyer Johnnie Cochran, activist Rev. Al Sharpton, the cast of The Jeffersons and other sitcoms and certainly not self-deluded white show-business executives who consider themselves honorary homies. Lee may not be subtle and Bamboozled may border on hectoring, but the man has a point, and he pile-drives it home. (R)

Bottom Line: Spike Lee’s mad, mad world