[box cover]

Brown Sugar

People have been saying the sitcom is dead for years — but what about the romantic comedy? For every innovative entry in the field (Kissing Jessica Stein) there are 10 rote, predictable "chick flicks" that lean far too heavily on star power instead of story (Two Weeks Notice is a prime example). That's why any movie in the genre that dares to be a little different tends to make people (especially critics) sit up and take notice, and Brown Sugar is no exception. Sure, you go into it knowing that lifelong best friends Sidney (Love and Basketball's Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs) are meant to be together, but director Rick Famuyiwa and screenwriter Michael Elliott throw enough curveballs in the pair's way — her career, his girlfriend; his career, her boyfriend; their mutual denial — that you start wondering how inevitable their relationship really is. But like the hip-hop music that defines their relationship and, really, their lives (she's a music journalist; he's a record producer), Sidney and Dre have a certain rhythm together that they just can't find anywhere else — it's hardly a subtle metaphor (and Sidney's voice-overs drive it home repeatedly), but it works. Diggs and Lathan — both appealing, genuine performers who have real chemistry here — are unquestionably the stars of this show, but the supporting cast is worth mentioning. Real-life rapper Mos Def gets many of the movie's laughs as cabbie/aspiring MC Chris, especially during a great riff on Humphrey Bogart's failings in Casablanca. And in a relatively small part as Sidney's cousin/best friend Francine, Queen Latifah is as charismatic as ever. Also deserving billing as a supporting character is the film's soundtrack; even a hip-hop neophyte should appreciate the bouncing beats of the songs that have helped define people like Sidney and Dre — the first hip-hop generation. Fox's two-sided Brown Sugar DVD is about what you'd expect for a moderately successful, mainstream theatrical release: The extras list includes a genial commentary by sonorous-voiced director Rick Famuyiwa and editor Dirk Westervelt (available on both sides of the disc), four deleted scenes with optional commentary (on side one only), music videos by Erykah Badu and Mos Def (side two), and the theatrical trailer (side two), as well as promo spots for the movie's soundtrack and for Antwone Fisher. Side one offers a crisp anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) while side two sports a full-screen version of the film; both have strong English DD 5.1 audio and English and Spanish subtitles. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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