Wah Do Dem

Like hipster Max, ‘Wah Do Dem’ gets lost and goes nowhere

Sean Bones (with Norah Jones) plays a hipster who gets stranded in Jamaica. Sean Bones (with Norah Jones) plays a hipster who gets stranded in Jamaica. (Wah Do Dem LLC)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / June 26, 2010

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Woe is the American kid who gets back to his Caribbean cruise too late to stop the ship from leaving him behind. This is Max’s life for a day in “Wah Do Dem,’’ a tedious exercise in indulgent obliviousness that Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner wrote and directed. Max (Sean Bones) gets off the boat in Jamaica and gets high with two new friends who run off with his backpack, which contained a passport and wallet. His sneakers are gone, too. So this young, fit-looking blond has to make his way around the island with no shoes, no shirt, and no shot at sympathy.

Max is desperate to get back to Brooklyn, where we see him do exactly nothing but hipsterize, which gives him a lot in common with the Jamaicans who mock and exploit him. They, at least, are up to nothing good. Max’s plan was to take the cruise with his girlfriend (Norah Jones, yes, that one). But, perhaps sensing what’s ahead, she backs out. His friends insist he go — well, there’s one objector: “You’re gonna miss the election!’’

Ah, the election — yes, that election, whose footage plays in the background of many scenes but contributes no sociopolitical texture. The image of a room full of partying Jamaicans going wild over the announcement of Barack Obama’s ascendancy is an ugly, meaningless sight. They’ve been filmed to seem like animals.

“Wah do dem’’ is Jamaican patois for “What’s wrong with them?,’’ a question you could ask at any point during the movie’s 76 minutes. Chace and Fleischner might have been going for a kind of realism, but they don’t open any dramatic or emotional door. Instead, they show off their inevitable taste in two-year-old pop (MGMT, Santogold, etc.) and product (Vimeo! Red Stripe!).

The camera follows watchfully as Max hotfoots his way to the American Embassy. But who is it following, really? A bunch of native cliches and a walking Facebook profile. Should Chace and Fleischner strike again, one hopes they do more than stare at their navels.

Wesley Morris can be reached at For more on movies, go to


Written and directed by: Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner

Starring: Sean Bones and Norah Jones

At: Somerville Theatre

Running time: 76 minutes

Unrated (language, drug use, slacking)

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