This romantic comedy helped feed Judge Mitchell Hattaway's Gabrielle Union habit, but that's about all it has going for it.
When it comes to getting dumped…he wrote the book.
Columbia TriStar brings us Breakin' All the Rules, a romantic comedy starring Jamie Foxx, Morris Chestnut, and Gabrielle Union. Just how romantic is it? Just how funny is it?
Facts of the Case
Quincy Watson (Jaime Foxx, Ali) is a successful magazine editor who has just popped the question to his girlfriend Helen (Bianca Lawson, Save the Last Dance). On the night they plan to announce their engagement, Helen suddenly dumps Quincy and tells him she's flying to Paris with his best friend. Quincy then quits his job and spends the next several days writing Helen a letter explaining how she mishandled their breakup; Quincy's cousin Evan (Morris Chestnut, The Brothers) uses the guidelines set forth in the letter to dump his own girlfriend, and is pleased with the results. He convinces Quincy to turn the letter (which is about the length of the War and Peace manuscript) into a how-to book, which quickly becomes a runaway bestseller. A few months later Evan, who can't seem to date anyone for longer than three months, decides to break up with Nikki (Gabrielle Union, Bring it On), his new girlfriend. Before he's able to dump her, though, a misunderstanding leads him to believe she is going to dump him. Evan then sends Quincy to meet Nikki in order to convince her not to break up with him, as he now wants to continue the relationship just so he can ultimately be the one to end it. Quincy, however, has never seen Nikki, and ends up trying to pick her up when he meets her; Nikki, on the other hand, knows exactly who Quincy is, tells him her name is Mary and, against her better judgment, goes to dinner with him. Meanwhile, Rita (Jennifer Esposito, Summer of Sam) discovers her boyfriend Phillip (Peter MacNicol, Dragonslayer) is about to dump her; Phillip just happens to be Quincy's old boss and the publisher of his book, so Rita, after discovering Phillip plans to use Quincy's book as a guide for ending their relationship, goes to Quincy's house for advice on how to turn the tables on Phillip. When she arrives at the house she instead finds Evan, who pretends to be Quincy and offers to help Rita in exchange for sex. While all this is going on, Helen has been reading her old boyfriend's book, and suddenly decides she wants back to be a part of his life again. Everything comes to a head the night Evan proposes to Nikki, unaware she and Quincy are falling in love. (Got all that?)
There's really nothing bad about Breakin' All the Rules, other than the fact we've seen all this before. The plot hinges on the characters being involved in a series of misunderstandings; if fact, the script by writer-director Daniel Taplitz (Commandments) plays like the proposed plot of a never-realized Three's Company reunion. These misunderstandings, however, are pretty hard to swallow. Evan thinks an upset Nikki wants to break up with him when she's really just disappointed with her hair (yeah, you read that right). Quincy can't recognize Nikki because Evan only tells him she has long hair, not knowing she recently had it cut (yeah, okay). Nikki knows Quincy because she's seen him in the numerous interviews he's done in order to promote his book; Rita, on the other hand, doesn't know Quincy from Adam. You'd think she'd have seen him somewhere, considering he's all over television and he's her publisher boyfriend's cash cow and her boyfriend throws a party for Quincy every time the book moves up a spot the bestsellers list; Rita is a portrayed as a gold digger and social climber, so I can't imagine she wouldn't attempt to finagle her way into attending these parties. (There's apparently no author's photo on Quincy's book; I guess maybe he's taking a cue from J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon, but that doesn't explain all the interviews he gives.)
You know you're in trouble in this day and age when a film has to resort to a (supposedly) funny dog for laughs; you really know you're in trouble when the first joke in that film involves the dog urinating. (When was the last time a funny dog actually was funny—Down and Out in Beverly Hills?) There just aren't very many laughs in this film, and the ones that are here seem to be the results of improvisation. There are also an awful lot of unnecessary scenes and extraneous characters in Breakin' All the Rules, which is odd considering how short the running time is. There's really no need for the existence of Nikki's conniving coworker, or her lecherous physical therapy patient. Sure, it's always nice to Patrick Cranshaw (Old School), but his character here really serves little purpose (even if he is the funniest thing in the movie), other than to set in motion the contrived ending. Taplitz throws in so many plot threads he's unable to tie them all up in the end; he resolves the Quincy/Nikki situation, but that's about it.
A game cast is really about the only thing this film has going for it, and they do their best in trying to overcome the marginal material. Jaime Foxx can be exceedingly funny (yes, I'm referring to Booty Call), but of late he seems to be coming off better in dramatic roles. Morris Chestnut has a terribly underwritten part, but his work is effortless and he at least makes his presence known. Jennifer Esposito is really asked to do nothing more than sit around looking hot, which she does exceedingly well. Peter MacNicol would steal the film if it weren't for Cranshaw; I was reminded of his work in Ghostbusters 2, another unfunny film in which he somehow managed to generate laughs. Gabrielle Union does the best job of trying to put a spin on the material, and she and Foxx do exhibit nice chemistry, but once again she's not given a chance to achieve her full potential (yes, I' referring to Bad Boys II). Why can't someone offer her a decent script?
This release is also a technical letdown, especially coming from Columbia. The transfer is soft and hazy, with quite a bit of edge enhancement. Colors aren't well-saturated, and flesh tones really suffer. The bit rate is rather low, which I imagine comes from the decision to place widescreen and full frame versions on the same side of the disc. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is dialogue heavy, so it's primarily screen-centric, with a very narrow soundstage; the surrounds and subwoofer only come to life during the soundtrack's songs. Extras include a mock interview with Foxx's character (a snippet of which can be seen in the film itself), a gag reel, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a commentary featuring writer-director Taplitz, producer Lisa Tornell, and Gabrielle Union. You'd think between the three of them they'd have quite a bit to talk about, but you'd be wrong, as the track contains quite a few dead stretches. The final extra is the Three Stooges short film Hoi Polloi (the inspiration for Trading Places); it's obviously included here as an advertisement for Columbia's DVD releases of the Stooges library. Those releases contain both the original black and white and new colorized versions of the classic Three Stooges shorts, but this disc contains only the colorized version of Hoi Polloi. Sacrilege!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Mmmmm…Gabrielle Union. Sorry, we got carried away there.
There's really no way to justify the existence of Breakin' All the Rules. It's too bland, too nondescript, too much like a sitcom, and too familiar. Skip it.
Guilty—with the exception of the cast, that is. Someone please cancel Daniel Taplitz's cable service. He's been watching a little too much TV Land.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Gag Reel
Review content copyright © 2004 Mitchell Hattaway; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.