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After being unceremoniously dumped by his model fiancée at their engagement celebration, Quincy Watson (Jamie Foxx), an editor for a publishing company, arrives at work the next day to find his boss Philip Gascon (Peter MacNicol) has lumped him with the task of "down-sizing" a list of fellow workmates. Unable to perform, Quincy resigns and, during an emotional breakdown, writes a self-help guide to breaking up, which becomes an immediate bestseller. Now perceived as a bona fide expert in the break-up field, Quincy is manipulated into helping his player cousin, Evan Fields (Morris Chestnut) end a relationship with Nicky (Gabrielle Union), as well as help his ex-boss Philip get rid of his scheming, trophy girlfriend Rita (Jennifer Esposito). But when Quincy and Nicky meet and the sparks fly, and Evan uses Quincy's identity to bed Rita, things begin to get complicated.

Review by Craig Miller:
With the amount of Hollywood horrors released year in and year out, you could be forgiven for thinking that Tinseltown formulas are as hard to follow as complex computer algorithms or rocket science. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if in a couple of years' time, a group of scientists came out and acknowledged that very fact.

In Breakin' All the Rules, the formula is again asked to work with only a fraction of the ingredients and even though writer/director Daniel Taplitz has assembled a strong cast, developed a surprisingly workable premise and managed to structure the three acts well, shock horror, he has forgotten to lace it with some sassy, original comedy and a strong, believable romance.

What looks to be a confusing plot on paper, in reality, holds together fairly well. Jamie Fox is the loser in love who finds the woman of his dreams in one of his cousin's throw-away beauties, the very appealing Gabrielle Union, and the misunderstandings and cinematic angst starts and ends with these two as their relationship; their relationships with those around them keep the story on track. There is some real chemistry between these two, and both look relaxed in the romantic lead roles but there's just no zing in the material.

For every attempt at some effective scripted laughs - Foxx's Quincy in a frilly bathrobe explaining how an emotion-charged letter evolved into a manual on how to break up with your lover using the latest psychological and employee termination research - there's an old man in a hospital bed asking a pretty nurse to hold his dick, or an alcoholic dog with a fixing for the hard stuff, that drags the whole thing down.

The film's supporting cast is talented and the characters are well fleshed out, but once again the stereotypes and lazy character profiling hurt. Peter MacNicol relies too much on the unoriginal character idiosyncrasies and tired habitual traits of his ol' Ally McBeal character, playing his typically weenie/insecure card and Morris Chestnut is wasted as the smooth ladies' man Evan, given the task of basically looking good and playing cool.

There are all the typical mistaken identity angles and slapstick antics that come hand in hand with this film style when the comedic well dries up, but the major disappointment is that the strong premise could have delivered something really sweet if the time had been taken to develop the idea properly.

The DVD doesn't fare much better. Marketed as a special edition, there's a lack of quality about it. The menus are stale, non-animated with just a simple pick-and-click screen, and what comes next is hardly ground-breaking.

The cast and crew commentary features director Daniel Taplitz, producer Lisa Tornell and actor Gabrielle Union in a personable affair which has the three reacting to what's happening on screen, relaying anecdotes from the filming, chatting about the relationships between the actors on the set and in their own neighbourhoods (Union, Fox and Chestnut have known each other for quite a while and all live relatively close to each other), and discussing the film's many hairstyles and Taplitz's pedestrian directing (not that I have to tell you, but the three of them thought it was wonderful).

The Break-Up Handbook featurette is a short and sweet interview piece, which serves as a making of/look-behind-the-scenes feature, with Taplitz and all the major cast members discussing the film and their characters. There are really no surprises here, everyone thinks everyone is talented and a master of their craft, but if you enjoy the film, there may be a few minutes worth the effort. There's also a horribly unfunny gag reel and a mock interview piece with Jamie Foxx in his Q. Watson persona.

Breakin' All The Rules ends up as something of a frustration, but really it only has itself to blame. The golden rule for a sex farce or relationship rom/com to work is that it must be strong in two crucial areas without exception. Can you guess? Yes, romance and comedy! There are just some rules that should never be broken!

Published December 16, 2004

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Peter MacNicol, Jennifer Esposito, Bianca Lawson, Jill Ritchie

DIRECTOR: Daniel Taplitz

SCRIPT: Daniel Taplitz

RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 2.45:1, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast & crew audio commentary, The Break-Up Handbook featurette, Quincy Watson mock interview, Bloopers, Trailers.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Tristar

DVD RELEASE: December 8, 2004

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