Brown Sugar
3 out of 5 stars
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Here's yet another formulaic romantic comedy that at least keeps us slightly off the trail. We know from the beginning how it will end, but the characters are at least interesting enough to make us wonder how they'll get there. It's about two hip-hop-loving childhood buddies who have always had a crush on each other. Sidney (Lathan) is now a high-powered music journalist, while Dre (Diggs) is a record company exec who's marrying his girlfriend (Parker). So Sidney finds a man (the rather too-gorgeous Kodjoe) for her. But their love of rap music keeps bringing Sidney and Dre together in surprising ways.

Besides the obvious plot, there's a nagging insistence in telling us that "hip-hop is a mirror of our lives!" Oh please! All the boring importance-of-music stuff is so silly that it makes us care less and less about the characters. Although it does provide the film with its best running gag, about an awful black/white rap combo called Dalmatian (Weiner and Wyns). There are some smart moments in the script, as well as some genuine comedy that undercuts the encroaching schmaltz. But the romantic plot doesn't work at all, simply because it's both obvious and contrived. Even the inclusion of a lot of yucky romantic dialog doesn't help ("You're my air!"). Still, Lathan and Diggs are, as usual, very watchable on screen (although Diggs needs to get rid of that stupid semi-beard), while the consummate scene-stealer Latifah lights up any screen she's on. But you get the feeling that this is just another movie from the Hollywood assembly line, so why should we care?

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 29.Apr.03

dir Rick Famuyiwa
scr Michael Elliot, Rick Famuyiwa
with Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Queen Latifah, Mos Def, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Wendell Pierce, Melissa Martinez, Erik Weiner Reggi Wyns, Aaliyyah Hill Marc John Jefferies
release US 11.Oct.02; UK 18.Jul.03
02/US 1h49

In denial. Sidney and Dre (Lathan and Diggs) have convinced themselves they're just friends....

diggs lathan latifah
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall