Brown Sugar Movie Review

To completely understand Brown Sugar requires an appreciation of what hip-hop means to the lives of those who listen to it. Since I'm not well versed in hip-hop music and culture, I didn't understand some parts of the film that the majority of my audience clearly did. I can, however, recognize good filmmaking when I see it. And unfortunately, Brown Sugar is not sweet enough to liven up its predictable story and will leave even fans of hip-hop sorely disappointed.

The film's setup is simple. Dre (Taye Diggs) and Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) have been very close friends since childhood, when hip-hop was just coming into its own. Dre is a well-known hip-hop record producer who is unhappy with his job and is about to get married. Sidney is a magazine editor who is working on a book about the origins of hip-hop and cannot find the right man to fit her groove. She is of course secretly in love with Dre because he is the only man who can connect with her and her music, and Dre is secretly in love with Sidney because she is the only woman who will support his dreams. Both Dre and Sidney have problems with the other's initial choice of spouse (Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe).

I've left some extraneous details out, but basically, Brown Sugar follows the steps Dre and Sidney take in their personal and professional lives as they discover they are meant to be together. We've seen so many of these kinds of predictable, formulaic films that you can guess the outcome. We already know they are meant to be together. The only question is how long it will take before they figure it out. In the case of Brown Sugar, it takes entirely too long. In fact, restless viewers at my screening (including me) were ready for Brown Sugar to come to an end long before the final scene.

At the very least, if the filmmakers were going to use this generic formula, they could have infused the journey with a greater emphasis on the music. This movie would have been a great opportunity to educate me on the inner world of hip-hop. Unfortunately, the characters just talk endlessly about the music, and aside from a few glimpses into recording sessions or visits to clubs, we rarely are permitted to actually hear it. For a film that talks so much about the past and future of hip-hop, why not pervade the film with the music from relative unknown artists trying to break into the hip-hop scene - isn't this Dre's job anyhow?

Brown Sugar is a beautifully photographed film - even the highly made-over stars are uniformly attractive. But the biggest problem with Brown Sugar is that it over-commits to the dry romance and fails to feature enough of the tunes, which could have energized the story. The film starts with an intelligent retrospective of hip-hop roots as told by many of today's biggest artists, but then we're quickly led into the boring and predictable romance. The final product is completely void of anything emotional or exciting. In fact, it is just plain lazy.

DVD features a full length commentary from the director (and inexplicably, the editor joins him), deleted scenes, and two music videos pulled from the film's score.

The queen of sugar.

Comments

MoonLit_Grace's picture

MoonLit_Grace

I realize this is an old article, but it was at the top of Google's list when I searched for reviews thus it warrants at least one comment.To acknowledge the necessity of understanding and appreciating Hip Hop music and culture is an acknowledgment of the lack of credibility the rest of the article has (despite the recognition of good filmmaking). Hip Hop is, among other things, a mechanism of story telling. If one doesn't appreciate the mechanism, one probably won't appreciate the story. Hence the poor review.It's like being an English speaker invited to a Spanglish (Spanish & English) speaking household. Some ideas are lost in translation, and even if translated they're connected to a culture that's not immediately understood. Plus, in some instances interrupting the flow or story to explain and translate is self-defeating.Moral of the comment:Those who assume that love is a universal language should be careful not to ignore dialectal differences that under gird its expressions, less they miss out on the depth of its beauty, however subtle.

2 years 4 months ago
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Brown Sugar Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2002

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