October 28, 1996 12:00 PM

Andre Braugher, Ossie Davis, Charles Dutton, Roger Smith

A year ago, a million black men (give or take a few hundred thousand) descended upon Washington for the Million Man March. Get on the Bus follows a fictional group of these pilgrims as they travel by charter bus from impoverished South Central Los Angeles to Washington. For director Spike Lee and his talented cast, who made Bus for $2.4 million and shot it in just three weeks, this bus ride is very much a journey of the heart.

The riders are a cross section of types: There’s the wise old man (Davis), the upstanding cop (Smith), an egocentric actor (Braugher), a gay couple (Isaiah Washington and Harry Lennix), a father (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) and his rebellious son (DeAundre Bonds), and the solicitous driver (Dutton) determined to get everyone to the march safely. Over the course of their six-day trip, the men joke (a bus trip without James Brown music, wisecracks one, “is like O.J. without a white woman”), spat, debate issues relevant to the black community and beyond, and get to know more about each other and about themselves. Much of this movie is fresh, funny, truthful—and inclusive. It is only when Bus embraces clichés (the gay couple reconciling, the father and son settling their differences) that it drags. The ensemble cast works very well together, with Braugher (NBC’s Homicide), Smith, Dutton and Davis having the showiest parts. Hop onboard. You won’t be sorry. (R)

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