Review by Dustin Putman|
3 stars out of 4
How is "Breakin' All the Rules" different from all the countless other
romantic comedies specializing in misunderstandings and mistaken identities?
It isn't. Writer-director Daniel Taplitz is content, instead, to parade
out an ensemble of paperweight characters as they go through the motions
of a n extensively bland plot. The film, despite offering a certain
amount of gentle chemistry between romantic leads Jamie Foxx (2000's
"Bait") and Gabrielle Union (2003's "Deliver Us from Eva"), is largely
more frustrating than swoonful because the actors are made to act
below an average person's intelligence. Anything that could possibly
cause a conflict does, as the screenplay's desperation to cook up
something interesting exposes the film to be about as frivolous and
insubstantial as this genre gets.
After being unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend, Helen (Bianca
Lawson), Quincy Watson (Jamie Foxx) becomes so discouraged by relationships
that he finds himself writing "The Breakup Handbook," a guide to the
right and wrong ways of handling the title task that becomes an overnight
bestseller. When Quincy's smooth-playing cousin, Evan (Morris Chestnut),
suspects that his own girlfriend, Nicky (Gabrielle Union), is planning
to break up with him, he asks Quincy to meet her at a bar and end
their relationship for him. Through a series of™yes™misunderstandings
and mistaken identities, Quincy has no idea when he finally comes
across Nicky, who has just drastically cut her long locks, and they
strike up a connection. Meanwhile, Evan poses as Quincy in order to
win the sexual favors of a gold-digger named Rita (Jennifer Esposito).
Through a series of™yes™misunderstandings and mistaken identities,
Nicky is crushed when she suspects Quincy has been cheating on her
with Rita. Will Quincy and Nicky solve all their problems and rekindle
what very well could be the first stages of love? Will Evan manipulate
Rita enough for her to genuinely fall for him, or will she return
to her wealthy, middle-aged publisher boyfriend, Philip Gascon (Peter
MacNicol), simply to get his money? And will Quincy be able to salv
age his friendship with Evan when he finds out he has mistakenly stolen his girl?
The question that kept coming up during "Breakin' All the Rules" was
why should the viewer care about these immature, dishonest people?
Quincy, Evan, Nicky, and Rita lie almost continuously to each other,
sometimes for personal benefit and other times simply because the
script calls for there to be another complication. In one scene, when
Quincy and Nicky finally began telling each other the bitter truth,
it was startling and refreshing. Finally, these two people were owning
up to their mistakes and accepting whatever consequences such wrongful
actions might hold. Unfortunately, this newfound sophistication is
short-lived, as they regress again to insecurity and weakness. So
often in "Breakin' All the Rules," problems could be solved if only
the characters had the emotional strength to stand up for themselves.
None of them do, resulting in the viewer throwing their hands up in
forfeit. How can vi ewers actively stake a claim in people's lives
if the film itself doesn't treat them with the respect and intelligence they deserve?
At 85 minutes, at least "Breakin' All the Rules" is brief, only overstaying
its welcome (due to a lack of worthwhile content) by about twenty
minutes or so. The cast, also, does well, but these are parts that
all of them have done so many times before that this film feels like
a carbon copy. Jamie Foxx makes for a likable lead as Quincy, and
Gabrielle Union is lovely as always, but why would they be attracted
to these parts if not solely for a paycheck? The same goes for Morris
Chestnut, who has previously been a part of such interchangeable romantic
comedy fare as 1999's "The Best Man," 2001's "The Brothers," and 2001's
"Two Can Play That Game." Even Union appeared in the latter two features.
"Breakin' All the Rules" joins this group of forgettable and cliched
timestealers witho ut offering up anything new to set it apart from
the crowd. "Breakin' All the Rules" breaks none of the rules of the
genre, and seems blissfully unaware of its own banality. Either that,
or director Daniel Taplitz simply didn't care.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman