Friday, February 14, 2014

You'll Love It...If You've Never Seen a Television Show Before: "Breakin' All the Rules" (2004)

This mild romantic comedy's title is all wrong. This doesn't even bend any rules, romantic or filmwise, much less break any.

Quincy (Jamie Foxx) is dumped by his beautiful model girlfriend at the same time his magazine editor boss Philip (Peter MacNicol) wants Quincy to come up with some pointers on how to fire people effectively, given his brief graduate school career in psychology. Quincy quits, holes up in his home with his ex-girlfriend's pug, and uses his knowledge of psych research to write a self-help book on how to end a relationship. Best friend and cousin Evan (Morris Chestnut) tries out the tips, is successful, and Quincy's old magazine hires him back as his book becomes a best seller.

Cue the sitcom complications. Evan has been seeing Nicky (the always, ALWAYS beautiful Gabrielle Union), but he thinks she wants to dump him. He asks Quincy to talk him up, but not knowing that she is Evan's girl, Quincy starts dating her instead. Meanwhile, Philip is trying to get rid of his gold digger girlfriend Rita (Jennifer Esposito), and asks Quincy for help. Rita ends up mistaking Evan for Quincy, and the wacky mistaken identities plot lurches through the grand finale.

Like I said, this is sitcom level stuff, even featuring a bit of dialogue along the lines of "he doesn't know I know." The cast is certainly game, with Foxx turning in a good leading performance. I wish writer/director Daniel Taplitz would stop riding the fence on whether Evan is a heel or not. Chestnut is fine in a very undefined role. The rest of the cast, including a pre-Oscar Octavia Spencer, is up to the task of doing what they can with the material, with MacNicol coming off best. Taplitz's direction is good, helped with some fine comically timed editing by Robert Frazen. The musical score is overwhelming, though, with loud cues telling you when something is funny.

Because this plays like an hour and a half sitcom episode, the "complications" are anything but complicated. Yes, the cast goes through the paces, but their energy seems to wan as the film goes on. Aside from a very funny sight gag in the finale, the climax is both weak and predictable.

"Breakin' All the Rules" suffers from both familiarity, and a lousy title. It's not terrible, but not memorable, either. (* * *) out of five stars.