This vehicle for hip-hop star Usher is no blinged-out Beamer rough-riding it over to Jay-Z’s joint to wallop some cheeba up off’n the Zeezer’s haid; it’s more of a Yugo, as in "You go to this wannabe straight-to-video tripe, you deserve what you get." Usher has always had something of a squeaky-clean image about him, and this DJ-meets-Mafia-princess story is predictably mired in a mix of gangster/gangsta clichés so thick and meaty it’s a wonder Francis Ford Coppola – or Chef Boyardee – hasn’t already filed suit. The younger bracket of Usher’s fan base may well find laughs galore in between the rampant stereotyping, but director Underwood (and writer Jacqueline Zambrano) aren’t doing the singer’s film career any favors. Here Usher is cast as Darrell, once the playground playmate of the aforementioned Mafia-princess-to-be, Chriqui’s Dolly – daughter of Palminteri’s mob boss Frank – and now a rising star on the New York City DJ circuit. Asked to spin at the surprise shindig Frank is throwing in honor of his daughter’s impending graduation from law school, Darrell instead ends up taking a bullet meant for the old man, thereby ensuring his already good graces with the Family and also putting him at the top of the short list of Dolly’s roving protectorate. In short order he’s literally driving Miss Dolly around town, introducing his charge and her lackluster, white-bread beau to the wonders of way uptown, collard greens, and ebullient, top-heavy women named Big Momma. It’s borderline racist, especially Palminteri’s character, who sees only shades of gray until he catches wind of Darrell and Dolly’s emerging love story. From there on out, he’s all about black and white, and never the twain shall meet. The Italian slur "eggplant" gets a runaround here as various nefarious characters mutter, mumble, or manhandle the word in Darrell’s Teflon presence; he may be too cool for school but he can still detect the overripe tang of epithetery directed his way. Too bad Usher couldn’t have calibrated his own BS detector with a tad more accuracy. In the Mix
isn’t even offensive enough to warrant as many jibes as I’ve already cast its way; it’s so pocketful-of-posies boring that its theatrical release is the real shocker. Schlock like this used to go straight to the video shelves (come to think of it, Underwood’s godawful The Adventures of Pluto Nash
also, amazingly, made it to the big screen) and there lie forgotten and rightfully forlorn. No such luck here. Consider this brick No. 1 in the fall of the house of Usher.