Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Breakin' All The Rules

Illustration for article titled Breakin' All The Rules

Under normal circumstances, the best that could be said of a movie that opens with a pug urinating on a hardwood floor is that it has nowhere to go but up. But the timing of Breakin' All The Rules' release gives it another distinction: It's at least a better dog-excrement-intensive comedy than the recent Envy.

Otherwise, little distinguishes this slow-motion farce, which stars Jamie Foxx as an executive turned writer whose famous guide to ending relationships is impeding his love life. Morris Chestnut co-stars as Foxx's cousin and acolyte. The first to prove the effectiveness of Foxx's breakup technique, Chestnut is about to use it again to rid himself of perfectly good girlfriend Gabrielle Union. (And, yes, those reminded of the extremely similar Vivica A. Fox comedy Two Can Play That Game, which also featured Chestnut and Union, have every right to their déjà vu.) Through convoluted circumstances, Foxx begins seeing Union, Chestnut begins sleeping with the gold-digging girlfriend of Foxx's ex-boss Peter MacNicol, and the dog develops a drinking problem. The film considers this last element a joke.

Written and directed by Daniel Taplitz, Breakin' has a hard time building up steam and an even harder time distinguishing itself from any number of UPN sitcoms, apart from a couple of clothes-on sex scenes and a semi-nude shot of a withered old man. Foxx is a few years out from Booty Call, and he should figure out how to graduate from these cookie-cutter comedies. Abandoned by his girlfriend in the first reel, he conveys a real sense of heartbreak, which is much more thoughtful acting than the film deserves. Eventually, after two montage sequences and several plugs for Heineken and up-and-coming soul singer Heather Headley, everyone ends up properly coupled without inspiring either chuckles or a hint of sexual tension. It's all neatly resolved according to the laziest rules of narrative economy, except for one lingering question: Does the dog ever beat back the demon liquor?

Breakin' All The Rules does have one other memorable feature: There's a running gag in which Foxx attempts to prove his love by biting through his own skin. For some reason, no one thought to put this out on Valentine's Day.