Lazy Like a Foxx

 

If even one of the major networks had a successful sitcom in the vein of Friends — but with an all-black cast — movies like Breakin’ All the Rules would have no reason for existence. Part of an ever-expanding subgenre that includes The Brothers, Two Can Play That Game, and Deliver Us From Eva, Breakin’ All the Rules serves little purpose beyond reminding us that there are black people in the world and that they have love lives and decent jobs.

Not that white folks don’t have their share of silly romantic trifles, often starring the likes of Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts, but those movies usually have some high-concept gimmick: a leading man in a coma or a gay husband. Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union, on the other hand, always end up portraying smart people with careers whose slight misunderstandings are less than wacky.

Jamie Foxx is the ostensible leading man here, playing magazine editor Quincy Watson. After being ordered to fire a lot of people and being dumped by his fiancée (“Everything between us is too right, too easy,” she sobs), he combines the two notions and devises the perfect handbook for “firing” one’s significant other. (In this movie’s world, it is apparently a piece of cake to publish and widely distribute any book idea.) Before long, Quincy is a mini-celebrity.

That’s when things get cuh-ray-zay! Quincy’s womanizing best friend, Evan (Chestnut), fears that his woman, Nicky (Union), is about to break up with him, so he sends Quincy to meet and soften her up prior to a scheduled date. Because Nicky has cut her hair, Quincy doesn’t recognize her and ends up hitting it off with her, all the while dropping enough conversational tidbits to inadvertently reveal his identity as Evan’s buddy. (She adopts a fake name to fool him.) While waiting at Quincy’s home, Evan intercepts a phone call from the gold-digging girlfriend (Jennifer Esposito) of Quincy’s boss (Peter MacNicol). Thinking that Evan is Quincy, the gold-digger has sex with Evan as an implied quid pro quo for staying away from the boss.

Writer-director Daniel Taplitz seems to be trying to invoke classic screwball with this convoluted setup, but it plays like a mediocre sitcom. If even one of the characters were to actually behave like a real person, the concept would be ruined. Once the dorky contrivances are more or less settled, there are some funny bits to be had, but the laughs one can extract from this film could easily fit into a half-hour sitcom episode.

Few lead actors have had as many wild fluctuations in quality as Foxx has — entertaining turns in Any Given Sunday and Ali, wretched roles in Held Up and Toys. Here, he’s surprisingly nondescript; in theory, he’s the romantic lead, but for much of the film, it probably wouldn’t occur to you that he’d end up with any of the female leads.

Categories: Movies