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'The Brothers': A Raucous Comedy of Relations

By Rita Kempley
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," a lively, affectionate and well-acted romantic comedy, takes a raunchy look at relationships from the black male perspective. The comedy is so blue, if Redd Foxx were still alive he'd think he'd died and gone to Heaven. And most of the time the target audience of middle-class African Americans will feel that way, too, although sometimes the movietakes swipes at the very people it aims to extol.

Nicknamed "Refusing to Exhale" by director Gary Hardwick, the picture follows the romantic travails of four childhood friends who've grown up to become rich and successful doctors, lawyers and businessmen. Though crowding 30, the buddies meet for a weekly game of basketball, but they shoot more breeze than they do hoops. After the game they head for their favorite club, order brews and check out theladies.

The comforting routine is disrupted when Terry (Shemar Moore), a notorious womanizer, announces that he is engaged to be married. Derrick (D.L. Hughley) has already tied the knot and takes the news in stride. But Brian (Bill Bellamy), whose mantra is "better dead than wed," is threatened by Terry's sudden about-face, as is Jackson (Morris Chestnut), a commitment-phobe wary of repeating his parents' mistakes.

The brothers do most of the talking, but their wives, girlfriends and Jackson's sagacious mother (the bodacious Jenifer Lewis) get in their share of gab. In both cases, the primary topics of conversation are love, sex, food and sex. The characters throw great punch lines and poke fun at their counterparts, but underneath the digs there's forgiveness and understanding.

The movie is great fun, but there are too many characters and too little time to give each his or her due. Actually, there are four good stories here: The best concerns Jackson's fear of intimacy, which he is on the verge of overcoming when he learns that the love of his life (Gabrielle Union) has been secretive about another relationship. There are enough complications in this narrative for any three movies.

The other plot lines are bawdier, shoddier and, in many cases, mean-spirited to women and people of other races. In one instance, Brian, a smart-mouthed lawyer, announces that he is swearing off sistas, with their baggage and fake hair. From now on, he'll be dating women of other races. The brothers try reasoning with him, but Brian connects with a leggy Scando-American.

After one brush with this karate-kicking blonde (dubbed "Buffy the Negro Killer"), he finds that white women don't like fools any better than do their African American sisters. Of course, the women come to this realization only after staging a catfight over this dawg. As if that weren't enough, Jackson's little sister proclaims that she has decided to date only white men, whom she describes as wealthier, more successful, and so on. And then there's the matter of Derrick's reticent wife, bowing to his sexual demands.

The writer-director really didn't need to go there. Yes, this is a comedy, but there's no need to get so . . . icky. Why bother to celebrate buppies if you're going to wind up portraying them in such unflattering light? If Hardwick really does want to attract crossover audiences, as he says, this sure isn't the way to go about it.

The Brothers (106 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for sexual content and crude language.

 

Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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