Breakin’ All the Rules

Movie Information

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Daniel Taplitz
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Peter MacNicol, Jill Ritchie, Jennifer Esposito
Rated: PG-13

Will somebody please get Gabrielle Union a good movie? She deserves something more than this kind of recycled junk that has her get all a-dither over Jamie Foxx’s character just because he says she looks like Halle Berry. It’s hard to imagine Union feeling the need for that sort of validation. Then again, just about everybody involved in Breakin’ All the Rules — especially the audience — deserves something more than this tedious excuse for a movie.

As a director, Daniel Taplitz isn’t bad. He has a good sense of when and where to cut a scene. As a writer … well, he confuses complication for plotting, and his dialogue evidences little in the way of wit. As concerns the former, he takes the same sort of simple story that propelled a couple Astaire-Rogers pictures quite nicely (boy meets girl thinking she’s somebody else and accidentally becomes smitten with her) and then grafts another mistaken-identity plot onto that — which, in turn, leads to yet another mistaken identity plot. And all of this comes after a convoluted set-up involving boy losing girl just to set the central plot in motion.

If all this sounds confusing, it isn’t. It’s just pointlessly fussy and makes a simple romantic comedy seem cluttered and drawn-out, causing it’s 85 minutes to feel longer than 165 minutes worth of Troy.

Jamie Foxx plays Quincy Watson, a nice guy who ends up writing a best-selling book on how to break up a relationship when his girlfriend (Bianca Lawson) dumps him. Then Quincy’s cousin, Evan (Morris Chestnut), gets him to use his skills to engineer a break-up with his girlfriend, Nicky (Union), so that she can’t dump him first. Problem is that Nicky’s had her hair cut, and Quincy mistakes her for someone else and falls for her.

The idea, of course, is that much amusement will ensue. It doesn’t. Instead, we have a film where the jokes — such as they are — rarely have any actual connection to the story. These include such knee-slapping rib-ticklers as an alcoholic dog and a lecherous old man in the hospital where Nicky works whose mind invariably turns to wanting her to hold a certain part of his anatomy. And all of it is designed to get us to a predestined happy ending — only Taplitz wants it to be as complex as possible, so that it becomes a weak variant on Mr. Shakespeare’s phrase, “Jack shall have Jill;/ Nought shall go ill;/ The man shall have his mare again,/ and all shall be well.” That’d be just hunky-dory except that Taplitz isn’t exactly the Bard of Avon and Breakin’ All the Rules is pretty far removed from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The film’s marginal value lies in the innately likable Foxx and Union, but even they’re not enough to make it work without some help from the script, which just isn’t there. How bad is it? Well, Breakin’ All the Rules made me nostalgic for the good old days of Laws of Attraction two weeks ago; that film at least had the good sense to realize it had nothing going for it besides likable leads.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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