IN THE MIX directed by Ron Underwood, written by Jacqueline Zambrano, with Usher Raymond, Chazz Palminteri and Emmanuelle Chriqui. A Maple release. 95 minutes. For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NN
You don't want to try Usher's new mix.
In it, the multi-platinum pop/R&B sensation challenges himself by playing Darrell, a popular club DJ all the ladies wanna get with. Shit is all good until he takes a bullet for his dead dad's old employer, Frank (Chazz Palminteri, typecast as a generic Mafia don).
Touched by the show of loyalty, Frank hires Darrell to protect his princess-like daughter Dolly (Emmanuelle Chrigui), who we're continuously reminded has just returned from Berkeley Law School. As a result, just like his beloved hiphop records, DJ Darrell gets "mixed" into the mob underworld.
Before you can say GoodFellas meets The Bodyguard meets Chasing Liberty meets Jungle Fever, Dolly and Darrell are madly in love. But we knew that would happen from their first scene together. The rest of the film oscillates between Frank and his goon squad trying to hunt down their Mafia enemies and Darrell and Dolly exploring the taboo that is interracial love.
It's not the first time this theme has been dealt with in film, but the way it's handled here defeats the purpose. Director Ron Underwood and writer Jacqueline Zambrano make the characters racial stereotypes to spell out how different they are and how awesome it is that they're hooking up and "mixing" (get it?). I think "patronizing" is the word I'm looking for.
Dad loves Sinatra (he's even named Frank). Dolly's really sick of having pasta for dinner every night so Darrell introduces her to fried chicken. He has a lot of strip-club-frequenting homies, but he's focusing on starting a label.
This all sets the stage for lots of stupid, "Gee, we really aren't that different after all" observations. Case in point: Darrell takes Dolly to a ghetto barbecue and they compare African-American cooking to Italian food. Apparently, it's all the same, just with different names!
After a while you want them to drop it already. But then, if they did, we'd be left with Darrell and Dolly's mediocre dialogue and not exactly winning chemistry.
Oh, and that mildly entertaining Mafia side plot, which eventually connects with the relationship plot - a twist you'll be anticipating from the 15-minute mark.
To the film's credit, Usher is charismatic (if too often shirtless), and there are a handful of passable jokes buried among the half-witted 1997-style Ebonics bits.