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BREAKIN’ ALL THE RULES (PG-13) (2004)

Sony Pictures

Official Site

Director: Daniel Taplitz

Producers: Lisa Tornell, Kevin Halloran, Paddy Cullen

Written by: Daniel Taplitz

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Peter MacNicol, Jennifer Esposito, Bianca Lawson

 

 Rating:


Much like the birthdays of family members and loved ones, the responsibility of picking up your spouse’s necessary angina medication, and (for all you ladies out there) the taking of birth control on a regular and effective basis, the viewing of the new Jamie Foxx vehicle, Breakin’ All The Rules (yes, the apostrophe attached to the severed form of “breaking” is actually part of the title) is not something which is easily remembered. The film itself is an ethereal thing, like the effervescent foam which crowns a recently poured mug of root beer or a one-night, club-derived fling—short lived, vaguely sweet, and, once past, you’ll wonder if it was ever there at all. An hour after leaving the theater you will recall phantom sensations of having mildly laughed, of having been basely entertained, but you will be unable to recall the specifics of why, and by what. Breakin’ All The Rules excels at what all films, when finished, placed in their round, silver tins, and rested on shelves prior to release, frighten each other with as we do campfire ghost stories: instantaneous anonymity.

Quincy Watson (Foxx), editor for a Maxxam-like magazine, has just been spontaneously dumped by his fiancée, Helen (Lawson), and is not taking it well. Instead of coping with the loss and rejoining civilized society like any well-adjusted and rational person might (although well-adjusted and rational in regard to people might be oxymoronic combination), Quincy hermits himself indoors and pens a manual on how to fairly and reasonably break up with someone. With the help of coworker, friend, and cousin, Evan (Chestnut), who nigh-immediately recognizes the potential of the handwritten madman’s manuscript, it is rapidly published and becomes an overnight sensation (a montage which grotesquely and unintentionally satirizes the monumental plight writers of substance face in attempting to get their work in print). And, wouldn’t you know it, confusion and complications involving the subjects of relationships and break-ups soon collect like graffiti upon Jim Morrison’s grave. Evan, a misogynist and womanizer, who only dates women for a limit of three months before kicking ’em to the curb, unsurprisingly wants to cut ties with his current slab of woman-meat, Nicky (Union). Only, he erroneously thinks that she wants to break up with him first, a notion to which he nonverbally says, “nuh-uh, girl.” Naturally, he sends Quincy (who has, coincidentally, never met his best friend’s girlfriend) to conveniently bump into Nicky at a club and extol to her Evan’s virtues, so that she might be temporarily sated and Evan can agreeably terminate the relationship. But, because of her new haircut, Nicky doesn’t match Evan’s description, and she and Quincy hit it off like an amputee’s nub and an appropriate prosthetic. A date follows. Love is sparked. Jokes are made. Unnecessary subplots involving Quincy’s boss (MacNicol) and his girlfriend (Esposito) arise like unwanted erections. How does it all end? With unsuccessful stabs at romance and heaps of crowd-pleasing banality, of course!

Writer/director Taplitz (whose last theatrical work was writing 1987’s The Squeeze, starring Michael Keaton) has, with Breakin’ All The Rules, woven a gratuitously complex wicker man of a story, which involves far too many characters for this type of lackadaisical film, and which jolts the audience from one attempt at clever dialogue and nutty mix-up to another at mach velocity. Left to drown in the tidal wake is most character development—even at film’s end I still had no idea what to make of Quincy, nor did I care—as well as the gratifying conclusion of many of the story’s threads. Evan, for instance, the only clearly defined character (a flat, ignoble skirt-chaser), is rewarded with as much happiness as Nicky and Quincy, who both possess some degree of decency (or, I suppose they do, not that the script makes either of the two altogether likable or engaging). So, is Taplitz insinuating that those who enthusiastically engage in acts of cruelty deserve as much contentment as those who don’t go out of their way to hurt others? Should villains be allowed pleasure, too? Am I reading too much into the inner workings of a film not meant to be analyzed to this degree? Yes, probably, but when a picture is as gauzy and limp as Breakin’ All The Rules, the viewer must grasp with desperation at something.

In sticking with theme, Taplitz’s direction is routine and, appropriately, summer-afternoon lazy. Camera placement is standard, scenes are fatiguingly paced, and sequences are nonexistent. A legion of ebola-infested apes could have just as easily directed this film by salivating excitedly and tossing their contaminated feces at where they wanted the camera to point and what they wished for Jamie Foxx to interact with. (I would feel a strange sense of relief, in fact, if Daniel Taplitz turned out to be a pseudonym for said legion of infectious primates.)

The actors, like firemen arriving too late, vainly attempt to prevent and contain inevitable disaster; at least, though, they depart with their lives. Foxx (whose distracting hairstyle resembles what it might look like if hundreds of bot-files were to implant their eggs upon one’s bald head and, weeks later, the eggs were to concurrently burst forth in writhing unison) holds his own as the focal-yet-underdeveloped lead character, providing enough physical humor and facial acrobatics to invoke joyous foot-stomping and approving shouts of “Aww, hell no!” from the audience I was fortunate enough to view the film with. Likewise, MacNicol, as the token, uptight white character (though, to its credit, Breakin’ All The Rules does avoid most mean-spirited attempts at racial humor and is accessible to all, regardless of color) duly earns a few guffaws, and plays well off of Foxx. It is Gabrielle Union, however, whose performance is most noteworthy, as she exudes more natural charm, confidence, and charisma than a bloated beehive does honey. If Breakin’ All The Rules wasn’t destined to flop, hers might be a star-making performance.

Perhaps I simply have an unrealistic view of what a romantic comedy can be. Perhaps the recent, unforgettable magnificence of P. T. Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind have forever mutated my view of how I believe elements of comedy and romance should mingle and sway on the silver screen. (Hell, even the minimal-and-poignant comedic elements of David Gordon Green’s All The Real Girls are more satisfyingly funny than the sum of Breakin’ All The Rules.) I mean, I know it’s summertime and that summertime films are supposed to fizzle and unnoticeably dissolve away. And yes, I know it’s asking a lot of Hollywood to offer quality, thought-provoking productions to the mass, giga-plex audiences, mostly looking to cool off after a hard day in front of the TV. I try to look at it this way, though: Without movies like Breakin’ All The Rules, Punch-Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind would not be significant, rare releases, and would not warrant the admiration which they have so rightfully accrued. If you should still decide to wander into Breakin’ All The Rules, they hey, consider yourself warned, buddy. If you should suffer an episode of missing time shortly after its viewing, try to imagine that you were at the beach surrounded by thousands of nude, 1950s’-era Sophia Lorens, or single-handedly saving the galaxy from a murderous, intergalactic race of nude, 1950s’-era Sophia Lorens, instead of piecing together the malignant truth.

—Nathan Baran

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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