Breakin' All the Rules Review

May 14, 2004 | 5:01am EDT

For a very brief moment--even by film standards--Quincy Watson (Foxx) has it all: A hot girlfriend Helen (Bianca Lawson) and a successful writing career with Spoils publishing. But when his boss Philip (Peter MacNicol) asks him to deliver pink slips (the company apparently downsized the entire human resource department) Quincy quits--and his hot girlfriend leaves him. Quincy decides to channel his loneliness and depression into writing the Breakup Handbook which becomes an instant bestseller. Suddenly Quincy is being called upon to fix everyone's relationship woes. When his cousin Evan (Morris Chestnut) thinks his girlfriend Nikki (Union) is about to break up with him he sends Quincy to meet her at a club and build him up to her. Neither man however is aware that Nikki had cut her hair short which sets off a chain of misunderstandings. Quincy and Nikki who have never met end up hitting it off. Don't look for anything below the surface of this modern-day comedy of errors; it's frothy entertainment determined by happenstance and slapstick humor--including a flatulent alcoholic pug. Despite a cast of heavy hitters there is not much character development going on here and Quincy Evan and Nikki are as equally rounded out as the film's pug. Besides what they do for a living very little else is offered up. Why was Quincy for example so in love with uber bitch Helen and what forsaken qualities did Nikki ever see in Evan? But while the film's characters lack depth one thing works: the undeniable chemistry between Foxx and Union. There is something slightly off-putting for example about Nikki and Quincy's hook-up (she is his cousin's girlfriend after all) but the electricity the duo share on screen makes it seem right. They become not a couple of scheming two-timers but two people that would be committing a crime if they didn't get together. Poor Chestnut doesn't get to infuse his character Evan with anything other than slime a shady kind of guy who eventually finds redemption with an equally sleazy woman--not exactly a romantic notion. MacNicol's abilities meanwhile are also wasted on his character Philip a ruthless boss who's also a real sap in the sack. Writer/director Daniel Taplitz who made his feature directorial debut with the 1997 laffer Commandments delivers a trivial romantic comedy devoid of any depth or character development. And following the tradition of all fluffy comedies anything that threatens the laughs is essentially eliminated. There are some relationship issues for example that could have been looked at less flippantly and used to craft more substantial characters like infidelity and commitment phobia but Taplitz seems to try his best to skim passed anything real in order to move on to happier funnier subjects--including a dog who drinks liquor and farts. Predictably the mayhem and confusion is resolved in the end with a final scene in which all the inaccuracies are explained and love conquers all. One thing Taplitz did pay attention to however are the film's sets. Quincy's house is filled with 1950s-inspired furniture including molded fiberglass chairs and laminated plywood tables and he takes his date to catch none other than Tony-winner Heather Headley in concert. Quincy may not have depth but at least he has style.

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