R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Taxi Driver, Blue Velvet, and now R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet. All of these films have gained some amount of cult status over the years. But only one shines
Published on March 4, 2010 | Filed under Review

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Taxi Driver, Blue Velvet, and now R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet. All of these films have gained some amount of cult status over the years. But only one shines with that “so bad, it’s good” aesthetic that charms me (almost) every time. Sure bad movies come a dime a dozen, but few are written and directed by R&B superstar R. Kelly. Who knew there were parallels between Tommy Wiseau and R. Kelly?

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Trapped in the Closet (and I don’t know how you couldn’t be), this “hip-hopera” from 2005 tells the story of Sylvester (Kelly) who finds himself in a series of wildly absurd situations. Trapped has been parodied most notably by an episode of South Park by the same name. To try to explain the scope of Trapped‘s plot is futile, but let me just drop a few keywords here that should pique your interest: midget, lesbianism, guns, bisexual pastor and a pimp named Lucious. R. Kelly voices all the characters and in the spirit of Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor, plays five different roles. One of the facets that make this bit of art so entertaining is that this 86 minute music video is broken into 22 chapters, each ending with a plot twist that would make M. Night jealous. By chapter 5 I was completely spent by the emotional roller coaster R. Kelly had me on. The twists, turns and next level wordplay (the man rhymes dresser and Beretta… sort of) make Trapped in the Closet surprisingly entertaining and highly rewatchable.

The REAL gem of the Trapped in the Closet DVD is Kelly’s commentary. You get to watch R. Kelly watching his masterpiece and it’s clear Kelly has not concept of what a film commentary is. As the commentary goes on Kelly synopsizes the events taking place on the screen in front of him. Kelly doesn’t speak on the casting of the actors, or the cinematography, or anything other than why the characters are doing what they’re doing. Kelly even announces what his character is about to do. “This is when my character pulls out his gun” (I’m paraphrasing) and sure enough his character does pull out a gun. And with that Kelly (grinning ear to ear) turns to the camera recording the commentary as if to watch your reaction. You can tell he is quite happy with the final product and I can honestly say I share the same feelings Mr. Kelly.

Does R. Kelly have plans for more Trapped in the Closet chapters? Check out the video below!

Trapped in the Closet trivia: In chapter 15, one of the police officers in the interrogation is played by musician Will Oldham.

Designer and Publisher. Fan of Carpenter, De Palma, the Revenge of the Nerds series, reading subtext theories, film poster art, and soundtracks, among other things. Not a film critic nor an academic, just passionate about the medium.

Dylan Santurri

  • Tenebrous Kate

    Oh wow–really nice to see "Trapped in the Closet" getting some Paracinema love! Your comparison between this gem of WTF-ery and "The Room" are spot on. I get the sense that, like Wiseau, R. Kelly didn't really grasp the magnitude of the comedy he was putting on screen in "Trapped in the Closet." It's totally better than antidepressants–a natural mood-lifter for me!

  • dangerousjamie

    My favourite part of the commentary is where he keeps getting words wrong.

    He makes up for all of it with Pimp Lucious though.

  • T.L Bugg

    (feel free to put this comment to a tune of your choice)
    I wanna say
    that I read
    and I liked
    what you've written
    and I enjoy Mr. Kelly's video
    or or his movie
    or whatever
    cause there's a midget
    and Bonnie prince Billy
    some people say it's terrible
    I just say it's silly
    fun for the family
    or maybe not the family
    but maybe your friends
    if they're cool
    like dylan from Paracinema
    so thanks for the review
    and more people should see this
    oooooo hoooo whaa ooo

  • Matt-suzaka

    I have seen bits and pieces of Trapped and it is quite epic. I commend you for showing it some love, Dylan!

  • christine

    Your post is awesome!
    Bugg's comment may be MORE awesome!!

  • Geof

    I read on someone's blog recently (can't remember who) that he just completed like 5 more chapters of this thing. I thought this thing was over four years ago.

  • Ashlee

    I can't help but think about the Mad TV spoof of this: brilliant! The ghetto opera was sparked by his collabs with Ron Isley which I've enjoyed for the snark factor and bangin' beats. My brother does a great parody as well.

  • Copyboy

    I keep thinking I'm going to see Dave Chapell at some point. Cool blog.