Ten years after his landmark film Boyz N the Hood, writer-director John Singleton returns to South Central L.A. Singleton is a kind of modern-day Richard Wright (the author of Black Boy and Native Son), making bold examinations of urban American blacks with a rough, didactic realism. The opening voice-over sets up one of the movie's themes—that American attitudes and institutions steer black men toward a state of arrested development, an infantilization borne of shrinking choices.
The main man-child at the center of Baby Boy is Jody (played by model/R&B crooner Tyrese Gibson). Jody's fathered two kids. Each is being raised by its mother, while their daddy still lives with his mom (A.J. Johnson). Jody's got his hands full simply being faithful to Yvette (Taraji P. Henson), the mother of one of his children. Slightly contrived situations gradually push Jody toward manhood's responsibility. The film's focused on fleshing out the characters and exploring their impact on each other. Jody's young mother has a new boyfriend (Ving Rhames), an ex-con turned successful business owner. His arrival turns up the heat on Jody. So do Yvette and her ex-lover (Snoop Dogg).
The groundbreaking urgency of Boyz N the Hood has given way to a different film that surprises less, but remains important.