In the Mix Movie Review
Usher plays Darrell, an up-and-coming DJ with childhood ties to a mafia family led by Frank (Chazz Palminteri). The family is embroiled in a mysterious turf war, and through a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, Darrell is enlisted as the bodyguard for Frank's daughter, Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui). They're from different worlds, and yet, Darrell and Dolly realize, they're also quite attractive and might just fall in love.
This is the first film from pop superstar Usher since his huge 2004 comeback. When he was less hot in the music world, he retreated to mostly-supporting roles in teen-targeted schlock (Light It Up, She's All That); now, coming off his most successful year ever, he has graduated to a starring role in teen-targeted schlock. Either he doesn't know how to pick 'em, or movies don't know what to do with him.
The question is, can we really blame the movies if they don't? He seems like a nice enough guy, but Usher is utterly adrift here in the kind of underwritten part that needs a genuine star. The movie is pitched so broadly that the actors could swing for comedy, drama, romance... probably science-fiction, if need be. But Usher barely even reacts to anything - he smiles and nods, and generally does the honorable thing. There's not a single moment during In the Mix where Darrell appears to be saying anything other than what he's thinking, and unfortunately, what he's thinking doesn't proceed much further beyond "this is good" or "this is bad," with the occasional "this is not what it looks like!" thrown in.
Usher and Chriqui are cute together, the way two kittens are cute together, but few sparks fly inside this wet paper bag of a movie; the failure of In the Mix to amuse or involve the audience doesn't fall entirely on the stars' shoulders. The screenplay exceeds the maximum cinematic exposition allowance in its first act, as character awkwardly explain who's who, how long they've known each other, and so forth; it's the kind of writing that gives voiceover narration a good name.
This might not matter if In the Mix worked as a comedy, but it feels inevitable when it should be unpredictable and farcical, and, worse, it's downright toothless about its own premise. Despite wanting to tap into easily recognizable Italian-mob stereotypes, the film squirms around the notion of the mafia itself. Palminteri's godfather character apparently runs a purely passive criminal gang; his dialogue hints at no actual criminal activity beyond maybe a little revenge against whoever is trying to kill him. This effectively blurs the line between mafia family and regular Italian family, because as far as the film is concerned, they are essentially the same. There is symmetry, then, in the way that the Italian mafia family who never kill anyone comes into contact with the African-American DJ whose skills amount to hitting "play" with slight panache. And, displaying what may be the filmmakers' idea of multiculturalism, the Italian family has a young son who no one can understands because he talks like a rapper! In the Mix may mark the exact moment at which the "black"-talking white guy character becomes as moldy and inherently unfunny as the shuck-and-jive black sidekick character.
And so, with every character a cipher or a cliché, with every approach to the story a dull failure, the depiction of an interracial relationship is all that's left of In the Mix. In other words, we can hope that the steady march of progress will render this movie entirely worthless in the not-too-distant future.
Mix? Looks like a pool.
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