Judge Bill Gibron liked this better when it was called Thirtysomething.
When it comes to love, it's all about the timing.
Apparently, the first official midlife crisis any human being experiences, no matter the ethnicity or economic background, comes once the magic number 30 is reached. It's the age when post-college chaos is supposed to calm, only to create a void that needs to be filled with job, family, friends, spouses, or in some cases, substance abuse. It's the moment when maturity trumps the dreams of youth, when the real world wallops one on the noggin and suggests that everything is not joking and Jell-O shots. So it's no surprise that the new "urban" comedy, 35 and Ticking, takes on this pre-40 malaise with all the insight of a clinic pamphlet. The characters here all exhibit the same symptomology that makes the rom-com (or straight "dram") subgenre so generic. Not even a change in race results in much of a difference.
Four relatively well off friends—unmarried Zenobia (Nicole Ari Parker, Remember the Titans), the wed but childless Victoria (Tamala Jones, Who's Your Caddy?), the dateless nerd Cleavon (Kevin Hart, Death at a Funeral) and Phil (Keith Robinson, Dear John), whose wife is not very interested in playing parent to their kids—realize their lives are slowly slipping away from them. Each has an issue to resolve, be it becoming a mother or avoiding a spouse's blatant disrespect and adultery. Eventually, Phil confronts his reality while Zenobia hooks up with an internet date (Clifton Powell, Army Wives) who is one massive set of warning signs. Victoria must make an important decision while Cleavon finally finds a possible love with Falinda (Meagan Good, One Missed Call)…all he has to do is keep his scandalous "secret" in check.
35 and Ticking is atypical of its type. This is not some kind of Tyler Perry style handwringing (complete with a "go with God" message) or a sophisticated Spike Lee joint. We aren't dealing with something starring/stained by the presence of Ice Cube or some other better than the material rapper nor are a collection of comics coming together to try and one-up each other in the punchline department. In essence, this is a typical romantic comedy that's a bit smarter than you think, a bit stupider than it needs be, and a bit longer than it should be. Something this occasionally bright and breezy doesn't need to linger toward the two hour mark, and for all its hyperrealism, writer/director Russ Parr does a nice job of keeping things "real."
But the truth is that all examples of the genre, even with its splashes of drama, have a hard time seeming authentic. People just don't talk and act the way they do in movies like this. Kevin Hart is a consistently funny presence, but did he need the stunt of the sperm donor as part of his personality? Similarly, Parker's Zenobia is such an obvious beauty with a great job that having to find someone online just seems spurious. Throughout the narrative, Russ reminds us that this kind of experience has to have the various plot contrivances, that you can't get away with honest expressions of true emotion. Thanks to the actors, the obvious fallacies fall away. What we wind up with is a decent diversion that has its flaws but has its finer moments as well.
As for the DVD, Image does a nice job with the tech specs. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is actually very good. The colors are excellent and the attention to detail is obvious. Certainly, there are budget issues involved here, yet the entire production seems highly polished and professional. As for the sonic situation, we are treated to a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix that makes the most of the various locations and musical scoring. The dialogue is always clear and the sense of space adequate. From an added content perspective, we are treated to a decent collection of deleted scenes, a nice (if very EPK oriented) Behind the Scenes, and a relatively pointless photo gallery. All in all, it's a good DVD package for an otherwise uneven film.
In fact, it's safe to say that 35 and Ticking suffers from the same issues that plague most so-called romantic comedies. There are moments that come across with humor and heart. There are also sequences that make you question the viability of the art form in total.
Not guilty…but just by a smidgen. As many highs as lows.
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