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'Brothers, The'

'Brothers' in style Comedy is fast and funny, but only skin deep

Friday, March 23, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

One of the rules of reviewing is: Review the movie, not the audience. But it was impossible to ignore the packed crowd at a preview of "The Brothers."

'The Brothers'

RATING: R for strong sexual content and language

STARRING: Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy, Shemar Moore

DIRECTOR: Gary Hardwick




At times, the laughter during the ribald, R-rated comedy was so robust and prolonged that lines of dialogue were lost. The film about four successful African-American men is sassy, sexy and filled with good-looking actors, actresses and upscale locations that seem lifted from the pages of Savoy, GQ or In Style magazine. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"The Brothers" is peppered with inside comic references -- a bachelor declares he's "through with the sisters" and takes up with a blonde, and an older woman insists anyone who isn't black is white (be they Hawaiians or Hispanics) -- but its broader themes of love, friendship and family are colorblind.

A middle-aged divorced mother of two, for instance, has a test of love and it's PG enough to share with Katie Couric on the "Today" show. You can't say that about a running gag about a sexual practice (paging Monica Lewinsky) that contributes to the movie's adult rating. I just wish the movie had featured more of the former and less of the latter. Cheap laughs are easy; funny, fresh insights are not.

In the movie its creator dubbed "Refusing to Exhale," the brothers of the title are: Terry (Shemar Moore), whose sudden engagement sends cracks through the friendship foundation; Jackson (Morris Chestnut), a pediatrician whose fear of commitment is tested by an independent photographer; Brian (Bill Bellamy), an egotistical lawyer who has harsh words for African-American women before swearing them off; and Derrick (D.L. Hughley), the only husband and father in the bunch. Whether they realize it or not, they all have issues about something.

Moving into and out of their lives are assorted girlfriends, parents and siblings. In a refreshing change of pace, there is no potty-mouthed grandma, just Marla Gibbs as Derrick's sometimes confused mother and standout Jenifer Lewis as Jackson's mother, a confident, vibrant woman still in love with her ex-husband and happy to dispense advice to the next generation. But since this is movie comedy in the year 2001, she also gets to call her former spouse's new French girlfriend a "ho."

"The Brothers" was written and directed by Gary Hardwick, a Detroit native who sounds like a classic overachiever. Wrote his first novel at 19, paid his law-school bills by doing stand-up comedy, became a screenwriter and Walt Disney Fellow and then a published novelist and now, director.

He has created a fast-moving, character-crammed comedy that is as glossy and skin-deep as the magazines mentioned above. Although the plot about a pending wedding has been used before (most recently in "The Wood" and "The Best Man") and the humor and language can be coarse, Hardwick creates strong male and female characters and some food for thought. But his intent here is to entertain, and Hughley and Bellamy get most of the good lines, while Chestnut and Moore get the shirtless shots on the basketball court.

"The Brothers" has the requisite name-dropping soundtrack, plus male bonding moments (basketball, bachelor party) and female bonding moments (post-wedding shower chatter) and the sort of happy ending that you expected from the opening credits.

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