ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  rick famuyiwa

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  108 minutes

RELEASED  -  11 october 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  fox searchlight

OFFICIAL SITE  -  brown sugar

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $8,000,000
brown sugar - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from brown sugar at

buy the dvd from brown sugar at

friends since childhood, a magazine editor and a hip-hop record exec stumble into romantic territory.

other prospective titles for this film included "i used to love her" and "seven days."


picture from brown sugar

picture from brown sugar

picture from brown sugar


three out of four possible stars

Brown Sugar hits all the right points and although it is a mite predictible, an entertaining cast keeps that aspect from being very negative. It should be a credit to these actors that they can keep the audience from caring at all that they've seen this story before and that they know how it will end. The inclusion of a love of hip-hop music throughout the film as a parallel to what is occuring in the main characters lives is a good addition to the movie and is a good departure from a straight romantic comedy.

Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs play a couple of friends who have known each other since childhood and base the beginning of their friendship on their mutual discovery of hip-hop in the early 1980's. This relationship to music stays with them throughout the movie and echoes whatever problems are happening in the film. It's a good base to sit on when the movie thins out in the third act. While it is not uncommon for a romantic comedy to run longer than an hour and a half, Brown Sugar still could have benefited from some more aggresive editing.

The movie runs along at a good pace until around three-quarters of the way into the film, when the audience will get somewhat annoyed at having to wait still longer to see the main characters finally get together. The rectifying of the romantic situation and the sum-up of the film really takes about ten minutes too long. If not for the likeable main characters and the excellant supporting cast, the film would have felt much too thin at the end. Playing two second bananas to the lead romantic duo, Mos Def and Queen Latifah prove again that they shouldn't be shuttled to supporting roles.

They each provide some of the most entertaining comedy in the film and the story is much rounder because of their involvement. And the fact that their humor is just fun, rather than being gross-out or flamboyant makes sure that this film stays firmly on the sweet side. There is the inevitable sex talk during the film, but in a romantic comedy, it goes with the territory. But the film is never too graphic or too serious, so its much more enjoyable as a "fun time at the movies." Which is all this film should really aspire to.

The screenwriter could have brought more serious overtones into the story, but that probably would have defeated the purpose of making a standard romantic comedy. And from the audience's perspective, that is exactly what this film is. A standard, seen before approach to filmmaking. But again, it's the actors that make that normalcy okay. In two other supporting roles, Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe play the love interests for Taye and Sanaa, respectively. An interesting angle on their involvement in the story is that neither one of their characters is a "bad guy."

Though they each contribute to keeping the main characters romantically apart, it is only because of their love for their respective partners that the do this. Each has their faults, but the audience won't hate them. Another example of this technique was used in You've Got Mail. Each of the main characters in that story had significant others that the audience didn't hate, but that still added flavor to the story. And the same thing occurs in Brown Sugar. There are no evil characters, so the audience can really focus on how sweet the romance is and how funny the comedy is.

On a different note, it should be worth saying that this film makes a very good case for crossing into the mainstream movie going public. With good word of mouth (which it will undoubtedly receive), this film will attract a much more diverse audience than and only an African American or urban audience. This film is not about being black in America. Nor is it about the struggle for racial equality. While those subjects can create compelling films, Brown Sugar is much more a romantic comedy for people who like romantic comedies, rather than a movie with an entirely black cast made for an urban audience.

This movie's success will lie in the well planned casting and likeable characters which make up for a script that could have been polished more, but that has no serious deficiencies. Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan play their characters with warmth and heart and are joined by vibrant supporting characters. Taye Diggs in particular has a fine ability to combine physical comedy and dialogue together, making his performance hilarious more than once. While the film is the standard boy meets girl scenerio, audiences will keep watching because of the charm of the actors and their natural talent for comedy.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs fox searchlight 2002
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