Breakin' All the Rules
Directed by Daniel Taplitz. Starring Jamie Foxx, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Esposito, Bianca Lawson, Peter MacNicol. (2004, PG-13, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 14, 2004
Despite the unfortunate title, which makes the film sound like some new Clint Eastwood/orangutan buddy picture, this sugar-coated fluffbomb of an urban romantic comedy has more in common with French bedroom farces and screwball comedies of the Thirties than it does with any simian tomfoolery. And – again, despite the title – precious few rules are broken, cinematically speaking, during the film’s quick, painless 90 minutes. Foxx plays Quincy, a book editor who, as the film opens, has gathered his friends and co-workers together to announce his impending nuptials to sex-kitten-cum-girlfriend Helen (Lawson). As so often happens in these situations (and you’d think by now Hollywood males would have the foresight to do away with these potentially emasculating gatherings altogether), Helen announces she has no intention of marrying Quincy and instead is flying off to Paris with his best man. It may be rough on the de-bridegroomed, but it’s a tried (and tried, and tried) and true scenarist’s setup that’s been around the block more times than the proverbial harridan. In short order, Quincy goes on a weeklong self-pity bender that results in the penning of a how-to manual on the fine art of dumping them before they dump you (in a novel twist, this cynical tome is aimed at both men and women, which theoretically makes the whole idea a tad less misogynistic). The book is published by Quincy’s boss Philip (MacNicol, late of Ally McBeal) to wild success, and the author becomes the toast of preemptive Cupid-slayers everywhere. In the meantime, his vain, player cousin Evan (Chestnut) initiates a breakup with his girlfriend, Nicky (Union, whose luminous face has more lusty charm emanating from a single sexy smile than the entire rest of the cast combined), and, regretting it the morning after, sends Quincy to patch things up. It should come as no surprise to anyone who can successfully spell the word "romance" that Quincy and Nicky end up falling for each other, each acting under their own minor duplicities for various reasons that don’t make all that much sense plot-wise, but serve their purpose here well enough. For better or for worse, this isn’t so much an urban (i.e., African-American) comedy as it is just a by-the-numbers game of romantic Twister; any race or societal subgroup whatsoever could have been inserted into the proceedings with only minor revisions to the script as is (by Taplitz), from big, fat Greco-Americans to, presumably, CHUDs (which, come to think of it, might have been just that much more fun). Nonetheless, Foxx, Chestnut, and the rest manage to make the most of what in better hands might have been a far more stinging indictment of post-breakup male rage (yes, Mr. Lee, I’m speaking of you). As it is, Breakin’ All the Rules breaks absolutely nothing, and even manages a few genuine laughs along the way. It’s nobody’s idea of a classic comedy, but it’s a pleasant enough way to spend 90 minutes, ogling the lustrous Ms. Union and Mr. Foxx’s equally and endlessly fascinating volcanic coif.