So why is scripter Kriss Turner, a veteran of generic sitcom writing, attempting to blow the dust off the concept for newfound laughs? Turner's treatment for Sanaa Hamri's Something New pits races against each other to tell the often-turbulent courtship of Kenya (Sanaa Lathan), a black accountant, and Brian (Simon Baker), her white landscape architect. Color colors everything for this duo as they try to make a relationship work, and New overplays the racial chip on its shoulder to the detriment of the romantic date movie that's buried at its core.
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Until recently, Howard has been one of American film's mostly unnoticed gems. A journeyman actor since the early '90s, he came into his own in Malcolm Lee's romantic comedy The Best Man, in which he served as the sleepy-eyed provocateur, wisely watching all the fools who surrounded him, goading them into fury by slyly undercutting their fantasies with his keenly observed truths. It was one of that year's great performances, but being mired in such a conventional work (not to mention being in a black film aimed at black audiences, and thus mostly invisible to the critical establishment), he never received his due. He's worked steadily since then, coming into his own with this year's Crash - turning in an open wound of a performance that stood out even in that film's excellent ensemble. In Hustle & Flow, he's found a role that puts him in the spotlight, and he grabs the role tight with both hands, though never so showily as to make you notice how hard he's really working.
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