3 1/2 Stars
"A father should be wiser than his son," says Fred (Clifton Powell) to his son Jackson (Morris Chestnut). "I'm glad that this time it turned out not to be true."
You'll feel the same way after seeing "The Brothers." With its candid wit and smooth blend of bawdy humor and heartwarming moments, there's no doubt that "The Brothers" got the best genes available in the growing family of upscale black drama-comedies and also learned from the mistakes of its cinematic elders.
Writer/director Gary Hardwick's debut feature focuses on black men, sex and relationships and will inevitably be compared to "The Wood" and "The Best Man." But comparisons shouldn't extend beyond the theme and casting similarities.
While its predecessors only offered random flashbacks, "The Brothers" succeeds in following the lives and trials of its characters.
Each of the film's four headliners -- Jackson, Brian (Bill Bellamy), Derrick (D.L. Hughley) and Terry (Shemar Moore) -- has successfully climbed up the corporate ladder but is still working his way through the maze of love. And each man has a unique approach on how to handle the situation.
The most introspective and well-developed member of the crew is Jackson. Bothered by his growing chain of unfulfilling relationships as well as his growing age, he turns to therapy sessions for answers.
The contemplative path is not Terry's choice. He suddenly decides that the time has come to stop playing games and settle down. His fiancee is right on target, but his heart is shooting blanks and, predictably, he backs out of the wedding.
Derrick had no problems tying the knot, but his situation is still twisted. The group's lone married man, he is the voice of reason and humorous truth. He listens to his pals' exploits and is quick to cut their egos down to size. Derrick, however, is much more frustrated with his own head case than theirs. His wife's (Tamala R. Jones) disdain for oral sex provides some of the movie's biggest laughs.
Brian only wishes that his relationship problems were limited to one woman. A smug attorney with a cynical attitude, Brian is the adolescent among this posse of black professionals. In his opinion, they are looking for love in all the wrong places.
"Face it," he boasts to his boys during one of several therapeutic hoops scenes. "We're the cream of the crop."
Terry checks him, noting that Brian is merely "the black sticky shit at the bottom of the barrel."
While escaping many tired cliches, "The Brothers" still has some of the nasty residue that plagued previous efforts in its genre. The plot is sparse, the camera work is hackneyed, and the editing is slack. Hardwick doesn't experiment artistically and, at times, fails to properly control the elements of soap opera and sitcom that he unleashes.
But those flaws are hardly noticeable while you're watching the movie.
Ultimately, "The Brothers" is a highly enjoyable romp that provides a refreshing perspective on matters of the heart.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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