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items tagged with Romantic Comedies

"The Brothers" Bring Welcome Relief: Also, "Someone Like You"
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Movies

Category: Reviews

2001-04-04 00:00:00

Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy, and Shemar Moore in The BrothersTHE BROTHERS

The Brothers, the comedy-drama debut from writer-director Gary Hardwick, is a good-and-bad movie in which the good parts far surpass the bad, and that alone makes it one of the finer movies of the year.

Dealing with the exploits of four long-term pals and their relationships with the women in their lives, the film has an exuberance and wit that helps you glide over its clichés, and it’s the rare male-oriented movie that gives its women plenty of breathing room. There’s nothing revelatory in either its plotting or its execution – at this early stage, Hardwick is a better writer than director – but it’s undeniably enjoyable; those who by nature bypass movies with African-American casts will truly be missing out.

At the start of the film, confirmed bachelor Terry (Shemar Moore) announces his impending wedding, which makes the others in his circle question their own lives and romantic entanglements. Jackson (Morris Chestnut), a successful pediatrician, wants to develop a deeper commitment with his girlfriend, Denise (Gabrielle Union), but is hindered by a revealed secret from her past; Derrick (D.L. Hughley), moderately happy in his own marriage to Sheila (Tamala Jones), can’t get past her reluctance to engage in oral sex; lothario Brian (Bill Bellamy), high on booze and a succession of ladyfriends, finds commitment a joke and is (comically) punished for his refusal to grow up. Needless to say, The Brothers is more character-driven than story-driven, and given the strong parade of characters Hardwick has created, that’s just fine for this debut feature.

Which is not to say that Hardwick has created original characters. Brian is a particularly weak link, his comic exploits predictable and formulaic, and Bellamy is, in general, more stand-up than actor; you catch him performing throughout the picture and it dulls your interest in him. But many of the film’s actors transcend the obviousness of their roles – Hughley gets away with his borderline offensive subplot through sheer charisma – and one of them, Morris Chestnut, does even more that; he anchors the film with an impressive combination of understatement, humor, and sexiness. Chestnut has been a terrific presence in movies like Boys N the Hood and The Best Man, but The Brothers might finally be the one that makes him a star.

Best of all, and most surprising for a film entitled The Brothers, is the strong impact made by the female cast members. Gabrielle Union is enormously appealing – her role in last fall’s Bring It On didn’t hint at this kind of womanly strength and vulnerability – and we’re also treated to the wonderful Marla Gibbs and the especially vibrant Jenifer Lewis. In films of this type, where men are slow to pick up on their own failings but more than ready to find them in others, we’re used to seeing a series of putting-men-in-their-place diatribes; The Brothers doesn’t shirk from this heady, predictable responsibility, but Hardwick writes some truly hysterical diatribes, and Lewis is a true live wire when delivering them. The movie never really amounts to much, but it actually does say a few things about how people live in this day and age, and does so while remaining spirited and funny. In a movie year that’s shaping up to be even worse than the last – Lord help us – The Brothers is welcome relief.

 

Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman in Someone Like YouSOMEONE LIKE YOU

It just figures. You wait patiently for the gorgeous and talented Ashley Judd to get out of her action-stud-muffinette phase (in turkeys like Kiss the Girls, Eye of the Beholder, and the reprehensible Double Jeopardy) and land the lead in a romantic comedy; she finally does, and it winds up being the witless and charmless piece of piffle Someone Like You. If you’ve never before felt the head-swimming rush of déjà vu, I heartily recommend catching the film; even if you haven’t yet seen it, you’ve seen it. (You probably remember the title, too. With the exception of the Bernard Slade adaptation Romantic Comedy, has there ever been a film of this type with a less inspired moniker?) Not that it matters, but here’s the lowdown this time around: Judd plays the talent-booker for a TV talk show who, after one failed relationship too many, comes to the shocking realization that men are pigs. Or rather, she learns after reading a rather dubious-sounding newspaper article that men are bulls. And women are cows. And bulls, you see, never mate with the same cow twice. And that explains why men and women can never successfully cohabitate.

But guess what? (You’re ahead of me already, aren’t you?) She meets a bull (Hugh Jackman) who’s rude and chauvinistic and a user of women, but who’s kinda cute, and who might just be perfect for ... oh, who the hell cares? As I’ve underlined countless times in my reviews of countless goofy romantic comedies: Setup is nothing, chemistry is all. And in Someone Like You, the leads ain’t got it. Jackman appears to be trying; he plays his macho-blowhard-with-the-gooey-center well enough (although his dry wit was a lot more fun as Wolverine in X-Men) and gives Judd appropriate smolder. But with crummy lines to deliver and nothing but a flighty dipstick to play, Judd comes across as desperate and graceless; she could be channeling Sandra Bullock in her lesser movies, and God knows that the one we have is enough. Despite how strenuously the script works at making them the ideal couple, the concept never gels, and director Tony Goldwyn, who made a lovely debut with A Walk on the Moon, has nothing fresh to bring to either the material of the performers. Even as pure throwaway entertainment, the movie is a dud.

Among the supporting players, Ellen Barkin and Marisa Tomei are pure stereotype – Barkin all phony TV sleaze and Tomei stuck with second-rate wisecracks and “heart.” (Message to Marcia Gay Harden: Congratulations, but beware – look what’s happened to Tomei less than a decade after her Best Supporting Actress win.) And as for Greg Kinnear, who plays Someone Like You’s token good-guy-who-turns-into-the-bad-guy, give it a rest. You may have perfected the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing grin, but you perfected it about 10 films ago. Nowadays, when you make your first appearance onscreen, we know you’re going to be a bastard.



Notes on Brad, Julia, and "The Mexican"
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Movies

Category: Reviews

2001-03-07 00:00:00

Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in The MexicanTHE MEXICAN

We’ve had the evidence for years, but I think it’s time we made it official: Brad Pitt is a gonzo supporting player stuck in a (rather dull) leading man’s body. Recently, he portrayed the heavily-accented Irish boxer in Snatch, giving the film a jolt of pure, comedic adrenalin – his screen time was brief, but he was the most entertaining performer in the movie – and when he appeared as a supporting actor in 12 Monkeys, Thelma & Louise, and True Romance (probably his best, and easily his funniest, screen work), his performances were well-calibrated and often inspired. Pitt can display a true flair for off-kilter comedy; it’s telling that his most enjoyable lead performance has come from the darkly comic cult film Fight Club, where his Tyler Durden was clearly one of Pitt’s nutjob character roles gone berserk.


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Two and a Half Cheers: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", and "The Wedding Planner"
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Movies

Category: Reviews

2001-02-07 00:00:00

Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonCROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

You may have heard that Ang Lee’s latest work, the historical-drama/romance/martial-arts/action pic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is in Chinese with English subtitles. It's true. Yet no filmgoer with a subtitle phobia should be dissuaded from seeing the movie, because it’s such a thrilling, intoxicating, heady ride that its subtitles are absolutely superfluous. Ang Lee has created something rather amazing – an accessible, American-audience-friendly foreign work – that will leave you gasping at its audacity and superior visuals while finding yourself completely enraptured by its two sets of heartbreaking romances; it’s a Chinese Titanic with a better script.


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It Ain't Good for You, but It Ain't Bad: "Snatch," "Chocolat," and "Save the Last Dance"
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Movies

Category: Reviews

2001-01-24 00:00:00

Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, and Alan Ford in SnatchSNATCH

First, the bad news: Guy Ritchie’s latest crime thriller, Snatch, is nearly a carbon copy of his sizzling 1998 debut film, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The good news: Who cares? Those who like their thrills fast, bloody, twisty, and awfully funny will be in B-movie paradise here; we’re only three weeks into January, and we already have a movie that’s more enjoyable than 90 percent of what was released last year.


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The Perils – and Pleasures – of Self-Involvement: "The Emperor's New Groove" and "What Women Want"
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Movies

Category: Reviews

2000-12-20 00:00:00

The Emperor's New GrooveTHE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE

Despite being saddled with a crummy title, Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove turns out to be the studio’s most sheerly pleasurable animated feature in ages. It appears to have been made not only for those of us who were sick to death of the tired old Disney formula, but by people who were sick to death of the tired old Disney formula; it attacks the studio’s shopworn clichés with a vengeance that is both hilarious and utterly deserved.


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