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'The Brothers': A Keeper

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 23, 2001


    'The Brothers' Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy and Shemar Moore in "The Brothers." (Screen Gems)
'The Brothers" is a politically incorrect but often hilarious jam session, in which men and women trade insults like musical licks.

The movie is mostly African American guy-centric; it stars Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy and Shemar Moore as young men suffering acute phobia to romantic commitment.

But "The Brothers," written and directed by Gary Hardwick, does augment its booty-humor premise with a reasonably good story about friendship and savvy, diverse observations about love. And as mentioned, women get their playing time too. One of the movie's most positive and strongest characters is Louise Smith (Jenifer Lewis), a mother in her late fifties who's no slouch when it comes to sexual sport, and who can destroy the testosteronal set with some withering lines.

The movie's likely to elicit cheers or boos from gender partisans at different points. No one will react indifferently, for instance, to one male character's unprintable response to Terry McMillan's sister-supportive best-seller, "Waiting to Exhale." But some of Jenifer Lewis's utterances will certainly get the women whooping. And one guy gets grief for being a "slut puppy."

The story's about four successful young men in Los Angeles who play basketball together and trade stories about their sexual conquests and other pastimes. They're in the prime of life, cocky, lusty, intelligent and fiercely bound in friendship.

Three are single, ever since Derrick (Hughley) broke down and got married. (He had his reasons.) But when the 29-year-old Terry (Moore) declares that he has finally decided to tie the knot, it sends the remaining two -- Brian (Bellamy) and Jackson (Chestnut) -- into a sort of soul-searching dither.

Brian is basically a dawg, a womanizing lawyer who can't even remember the names of the women he has tossed by the wayside. As far as he's concerned, Terry's engagement amounts to a death warrant.

Jackson, a doctor, wants a one-woman relationship eventually, but not now. And he doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of his parents (Clifton Powell and Lewis), who divorced after 25 years of marriage.

But it isn't long before he finds himself falling for Denise (Gabrielle Union), a freelance photographer with charisma and self-confidence. Could she be the one?

And then there's the brewing possibility of a reunion between Jackson's parents. Jackson, who is still angry at his father for various reasons, is vehemently opposed to the idea.

These interlocking plotlines make for funny, irreverent business, as the four men weather their particular problems. Even the married guy has issues: Derrick is deeply in love with a wife (Tamala Jones) who believes that a certain conjugal activity is not okay -- and might even cause cancer.

"Woman, you lucky I just got saved," Derrick sputters with angry exasperation.

The fun of the movie is about the politics between the sexes, of course. As in, Louise Smith's special test to see if a man really loves his woman. It has to do with saving the last piece for her, when you're watching a movie and sharing a pizza. And the right Saturday night audience is going to enjoy this stuff down to the last bite.

THE BROTHERS (R, 106 minutes) -- Contains strong sexual content and language.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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