WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Daniel Taplitz's Breakin' All the Rules is a likeable, sitcom-styled romantic comedy starring likeable people in predictably zany situations. The humor is as cheesy and rusty as old Three's Company reruns, updated with glamorous African American chic—all hairstyles and attitude—and you certainly won't be bowled over by any unique comic moments. But if you happen to be in one of those moods, and you just want to watch beautiful people have a lot of cheeky fun posing and arguing, you could do worse than Breakin' All the Rules. A lazily paced satire of office politics that shifts inevitably to the politics of dating, the movie is pretty and predictable, and at least marginally fun.
Quincy Watson (Jamie Foxx) is a low-level editor for Spoils magazine, a men's rag that's in the process of downsizing. Quincy's ineffectual and bumbling boss, Philip (a hilariously stuttering Peter MacNicol), determines to exercise his delegation rights and have Quincy fire about a dozen people. Besieged with his own problems—for example, his fiancée Helen (Bianca Lawson) has just left him—Quincy chooses to quit rather than perform his boss's dirty work. A writer at heart, Quincy spends his new spare time writing stream-of-conscious notes inspired by the breakup, and inspiration strikes: He decides to write a book about a new method of breaking up with a woman, patterning the ordeal on the business world's firing process. The book is titled The Breakup Handbook, and it's a smash, as we witness in an improbable montage.
The whole book thing is a fun concept, but it all really takes a back seat to the high-schoolish mistaken-identity farce that takes center stage after all that background setup. Quincy's buddy Evan (Morris Chestnut) is a ladies' man who relishes the upper hand in relationships. After he gets a vibe from his gorgeous girlfriend Nicky (Gabrielle Union) that she wants to break up, he sends Quincy to do more dirty work: a preemptive breakup. What Evan doesn't know is that Nicky has shorn off her long hair, so Quincy finds himself working with a faulty description of a girl he's never met. Naturally, sparks fly between Quincy and Nicky. While this drama plays out, Evan is already cheating on Nicky with Rita (Jennifer Esposito), whom he takes for a hooker but who is actually Philip's gold-digger girlfriend. Of course, I saw where all this was headed pretty early on, and even so, I had to smile at the over-the-top moment toward the end when all involved are suddenly face-to-face-to-face, wondering what the hell is going on.
But then everything wraps up very easily, and you're left with virtually no memory of the film. You don't remember its jokes, and you only vaguely recall the numerous bright Colgate smiles from Gabrielle Union. Perhaps behind your eyelids will burn the imprint of Foxx's carefully corkscrewed hair, and maybe the juvenile There's Something About Mary canine riffs will tickle your funny bone for a minute or two, but even those will fade quickly. This film is so wispy and inconsequential that you immediately regret investing time in its prefigured, stylish mediocrity. However, at least while it's playing, it's agreeable enough for you to just go along for the ride. It's like fast food for the mind.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Columbia/TriStar presents Breakin' All the Rules in a terrific anamorphic-widescreen presentation of the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical presentation. This is one of those recent efforts that just pops with depth and color. Its level of detail is peerless, and sharpness is natural and filmlike. Black levels are solid, and the color palette is vividly translated with total accuracy. There's a smokiness to some of these scenes—for example, an early scene in a bar setting—and I noticed no instances of artifacting in the smoke. I did, however, observe several instances of edge halos, which occasionally distract. In particular, ringing and halos are obvious in a couple scenes that takes place in high-rise buildings, with characters posed against huge bright windows. I noticed only the slightest flaws and specks.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is very effective, providing an aggressive and immersive experience. The first thing you'll notice is the sweeping pans and terrific front separation in the opening music. Sound effects shoot across the room as a quick rhythmical rap rockets across the front. Bass thrums, and the room vibrates. Then, the score settles down into dialog, which is fairly warm and seemingly accurate, but it's anchored right in the center, with no real openness to left and right. Only sound effects and music open up to stereo effect.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The disc offers a Cast and Crew Commentary that includes contributions from writer/director Daniel Taplitz, producer Lisa Tornell, and actress Gabrielle Union. It's a laidback track from very nice people, and that may be its biggest fault. These people are just too likeable for the track to boast any truly interesting moments. There are funny moments as they speak of hairstyles and settings and anecdotes, and there's a lot of polite laughter, but only diehard fans of the film, or of Gabrielle Union, need give this one a listen.
The Break-Up Handbook is an 18-minute, anamorphic-widescreen look at the making of the film. This is more than an EPK-style featurette, offering some meaty observations of character and story by many in the cast and crew. Big chunks of time are given to studies of each character/actor, from varying points of view. There are many scenes from the film strewn throughout.
The 5-minute Quincy Watson Mock Interview is the full-length talk-show interview, of which we see only tiny excerpts in the finished film. It's humorous for its overbearing laugh track.
You get a 2-minute Bloopers montage that's just mildly amusing.
One interesting supplement is Bonus! Colorized Three Stooges in the Comedy Classic Short, "Hot Polloi" from the recently released Sony collection. This little bit of hilarity concerns the boys trying to become civilized. I have to say up front that I'm against the colorization process in theory, but I have to admit that this at least seems to have undergone a careful, studied colorization process. This short film looks quite fantastic, as if it were actually filmed in color. As to why this short film is among the supplements for Breakin' All the Rules, my shrug is as emphatic as yours.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Breakin' All the Rules is worth a rental if you're in that cotton-candy frame of mind. Its video/audio presentation is above average, and its supplements are merely okay. Nothing mind-shattering here—just smile and move on.