Skid Row



Screen Media Films

NEW YORK -- The undeniably good intentions of "Skid Row," documenting the self-imposed stint by hip-hop star Pras to live among the homeless, are swamped by its muddled execution.

The former Fugees rapper spent nine days living in the five-block area of Los Angles that gives the film its name, with various hidden cameras documenting his experiences. But the film, overseen by no less than three directors, has the feel more of a gimmicky stunt than a serious exercise in undercover journalism. Its slow pacing and muddy visuals prove to be an ordeal for the viewer.

There's no denying the importance of the subject, as evidenced by the shocking statistics about the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles (said to have the highest such population in the country) that are periodically flashed onscreen.

But for all the concern expressed by the film's co-producer and star -- who was accompanied on his adventures by a hulking bodyguard from the Nation of Islam -- his newfound insights tend more toward the banal than the revelatory. Whether lamenting the absence of his BlackBerry, turning down an offer of food because he's a vegetarian or learning the lesson that a smile gets you further on the streets than a scowl, he seems to be heading closer toward self-parody than sociological territory.

Still, much of the footage on display has an inevitably disturbing quality, and the commentary offered by various experts (most notably Orlando West from the organization Midnight Mission, who was once a denizen of Skid Row himself) provides a depth of analysis lacking in the otherwise shallow proceedings.