"You know fellas, I've realized something here tonight. Maybe women aren't the problem. Maybe it's us."
With dialogue that insipid, do you really need to know anything more about "The Brothers" before running as fast as you can away from the movie theater?
An ironically misogynistic, "Waiting to Exhale"-style talker disguised as a male-oriented buddy picture, "The Brothers" is the latest in a string of predictable films about yuppie African-American guys in Hugo Boss suits slowing getting it through their thick skulls that maybe being a player isn't what life's all about. (Think "The Wood," "The Best Man.")
These particular guys -- Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy and Shemar Moore -- come across like they're freebasing estrogen in laughably frequent scenes where they shoot hoops while yapping endlessly and therapeutically about their fear of commitment and their relationships with women.
Moore spends a lot of time on his high horse, talking about how marrying his girlfriend (Susan Dalian) is the right thing to do because it's time for him to grow up. This, of course, means he's bound to get cold feet in the third act.
Chestnut swears he'll never marry. Then he meets the girl of his dreams (Gabrielle Union). But can he cope when he finds out she dated his father before they met?
Hughley's life revolves around the fact that his wife won't go down on him. Bellamy -- who plays the least convincing lawyer in screen history -- exists mainly to smart off comically about his buddies being "whipped." Although he also winges on about the fact that his momma doesn't hug him. Ooo! Could that be why he's so mean to women? How profoundly Freudian!
Beyond being trite, painfully contrived and horribly staged (Chestnut meets Union when she takes his picture in the park and says "I'm a freelance photographer!"), "The Brothers" is a mixed-message piece of sexist propaganda masquerading as a movie about sensitive guys, masquerading in turn as a movie for guys.
Writer-director Gary Hardwick seems to think women should not be allowed sexual histories prior to meeting Mr. Right. The movie implies quite explicitly that if Union had slept with Chestnut's father when she dated him, it would make her a whore and not worthy of his love.
He also makes it pretty clear he thinks women are worthless unless they give oral sex on demand, as demonstrated by the "happy ending" of the Hughley storyline, which finds his wife swallowing more than just her pride. Hughley is, of course, portrayed as a swell guy who just has "needs," even though he's also obviously an irresponsible father to their young daughter.
Meanwhile in Moore's storyline, his fiancée goes postal with a high-caliber handgun when he backs out of his wedding. But even though he's a commitmentphobe and she's a psycho, Hardwick brings them back together for the finale. This is the recipe for a healthy relationship?
And don't even get me started on the fatuous conversations the women have about how to tell when a man really loves you.
It's a frustrating shame "The Brothers" is such a feeble, weightless piece of malignant psychobabble, because the film has a great sense of humor and many of the characters -- played as they are by a cast of very talented actors -- are quite appealing when they're not being appallingly shallow.
But not only does the movie endorse -- and even encourage -- marriage in grossly dysfunctional relationships, it also implies that the key to long-term happiness is for women to forgiving their lying, cheating men for being dogs with sickening double-standards, while at the same time learning to control them like schoolmarms until they resent it so much the cycle starts all over again.
Hardwick clearly doesn't see the hypocrisy in his script any more than he sees its pathetic predictability, stemming from a plot built on formula coincidences and people having ridiculously bad judgement.
"The Brothers" is a movie only for those who don't know interpersonal ineptitude when they see it.
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd March 2001
Box Office USA: $26.6M
Distributed by: Screen Gems
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Gary Hardwick
Starring: Morris Chestnut as Jackson Smith, D. L. Hughley as Derrick West, Bill Bellamy as Brian Palmer, Shemar Moore as Terry White, Tatyana Ali as Cherie Smith, Jenifer Lewis as Louise Smith, Tamala Jones as Sheila West, Gabrielle Union as Denise Johnson
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