In one of its more outrageous sketches, Chappelle’s Show imagined what would happen if black people got their reparations and a Harlem thug named Tron becomes the richest man in the world. Similarly, Lottery Ticket uses its goofy setup as a way to address ideas about black material wealth, but it doesn’t have any of Chappelle’s satirical bite. Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), a recent high school graduate from the projects, becomes the neighborhood’s unwitting hero when he happens upon a winning $370 million lottery ticket. What follows is a pretty routine assortment of rags-to-riches gags: Kevin and his posse drop a few Gs on limited edition Nike Air Force sneakers, the local hoochie mama tries to seduce him for his sperm, and an ex-con super-thug knocks him out cold to get the cash. Somewhere there’s a lesson here about money, friendship, and love: When Kevin becomes paranoid about his newfound wealth, his best friend teaches him to “make a difference” by giving back and sleeping with sensible non-sluts.
Essentially Trading Places by way of Next Friday, Lottery Ticket never rises above formula (it should come as no surprise that Ice Cube cameos as a former boxer who saves the day), but there are some occasionally funny quips, like when one character calls Kevin and his friends “Bebe’s kids.” It’s the kind of pop-culture riff that feels at home in an Ice Cube film (who also executive-produced); there was a time in the early to mid 1990s when it seemed like the rapper was actually interested in making movies that reflected some kind of black reality, however minor—whether it was his role in Charles Burnett’s little-seen The Glass Shield or the aforementioned buddy comedy franchise he made with Chris Tucker. Lottery Ticket carries a passing resemblance to those films, but make no mistake: Ice Cube has long since sold out.