Breakin’ All the Rules

Posted on May 14, 2004 at 5:44 pm

C+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Characters drink and smoke
Violence/ Scariness: Comic scuffle
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2004

Bright stars can’t save this over-plotted and under-directed romantic comedy. Jamie Foxx plays Quincy, a magazine editor who is about to propose to his girlfriend when she dumps him. So he writes a book about how to break up with a girlfriend, based on research he had to do for his boss about employee termination, and it becomes a best-seller.

The movie then lurches into a leaden daisy-chain of mistaken identity mix-ups that hold the interest of the characters on screen much longer than they do the audience’s in watching it or mine in explaining it.

Quincy’s cousin Evan (Morris Chestnut) thinks his girlfriend Nicky (Gabrielle Union) is about to break up with him, so he sends Quincy to break up with her first. Not knowing who she is, Quincy begins to fall for her. Meanwhile, Rita, the gold-digging girlfriend of the big boss at the magazine (Jennifer Esposito), mistakes Evan for Quincy, and jumps into bed with him to prevent him from helping the boss break up with her.

You know the expression, “as funny as a heart attack?” Well, this is the movie that actually tries to make a heart attack funny. It doesn’t work, but then, not much in this movie does. There are a couple of good ideas and a couple of funny moments, but they are outweighed by too many “none of this would have happened if people had been logical and honest” complications and too much unnecessarily ugly attempted humor, including ostensibly charming references to bizarre tumors with hair and teeth and whether humans can bite through their own skin.

Fox, Chestnut, Union, and Esposito are all exceptionally talented, attractive, and fun to watch. They give the material far more than it deserves. But director Daniel Taplitz is too attached to his own screenplay and gives more time to each of the increasingly tedious developments than they require, breaking some important rules himself — the ones about how to make a movie worth watching.

Parents should know that the movie has sexual references and situations that are close to the R-line for a PG-13. There is also crude bathroom and sexual humor. It is supposed to be funny that an elderly man repeatedly asks someone to hold his private parts, and there are jokes about crabs and groupies and a discussion of sexual fantasies. Characters use some strong language. Characters drink a lot, especially when upset, and there are repeated jokes about giving liquor to a dog. And the movie seems to approve of manipulation, lies, and using jealousy to get someone to make a commitment. One strength of the movie is its portrayal of attractive and capable minority characters.

Families who see this movie should talk about Quincy’s comment that “Falling in love is blissful insantity, but breaking up is a rational act,” and “love doesn’t care about honesty; it cares about itself,” and his cousin’s comment that “on a date, it’s all dishonest.” What is the best way to break up with someone?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Deliver Us From Eva. And they might enjoy some of the classic romantic comedy mix-up movies, like Move Over Darling and If a Man Answers.

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