Mar. 23, 2001 (UPI) --
The success of "Waiting to Exhale" revealed there was a sizable market for movies about upper middle class African American women frustrated by the difficulty of finding and hanging onto black men who make at least as much money as they do. The new romantic comedy-drama "The Brothers" shows us the flip side of this demographic imbalance.
Life is sweet for four affluent black men who enjoy an abundance of willing women, black and white. Yet, when the handsomest of the four announces he's settling down and getting married, his friends have to reconsider whether that old joke - Why buy the cow when you can get all milk you want through the fence? - offers a fully satisfying philosophy of life.
Much of the movie consists of good-looking guys talking to each other about their relationships with women. Female viewers seem to love this kind of stuff. In soap operas, men are always having heart to heart talks about the women in their lives - "So, Josh, how are things between you and Heather?" - although not on any actual planet in the known universe.
Ladies, I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but what men really talk about when they're alone together is whether they should switch to those new solid core golf balls.
So, I don't think the men of
are going to turn out in droves for a movie with no explosions, nudity, guns, or even much rap music on the soundtrack. (It's a mild "R" for a lot of raunchy conversations. There's one fight, kartoon karate-style.) Still, the fellows who get dragged by their women to see "The Brothers" are probably going to enjoy themselves more than they expected. The heart-to-hearts chats are intermingled with enough quite funny comedy scenes to keep most guys from sneaking out of the theatre to see if "Exit Wounds" is playing somewhere else in the multiplex. America
Stand up comic D.L. Hughley (star of UPN's "The Hughleys" sit-com) provides excellent comic relief as the short married guy amidst all the tall, dark, and handsome bachelors. A very funny Tamala Jones plays his wife. She's got a round face with bulging round eyes, perfect for her role as a sort of black Betty Boop.
Comedian Bill Bellamy portrays the only one of the friends who has had to rise up out of the ghetto. He's given up on black women because he believes white women are less feisty, more happy to make him a sandwich without a lot of backtalk. Being from the old school, he fears that all this talk of settling down will break the "the brothers" apart.
Soap opera star Shemar Moore ("The Young & The Restless") is the ex-man about town who wants his friends to support his decision to marry. Moore, who closely resembles the L.A. Lakers forward and part-time actor Rick Fox, is an extraordinarily good-looking man of mixed black and white descent. In the looks department, he must have lucked into getting the best genes from both races.
Morris Chestnut (the groom in "The Best Man," another black yuppie comedy-drama, and the tragic high school football star in "Boyz N the Hood") radiates huge waves of sincerity and earnestness in the most important role as the good-hearted pediatrician from a wealthy family who feels guilty over breaking so many women's hearts.
Movies like "
" that portray the glamour of evil can certainly do well at the box office. Yet, there also can be a glamour to goodness. Chestnut embodies that in his character: a wealthy, striking-looking man who could have as many women as he wants, but instead wants to do the right thing by just one woman. Hannibal
Gary Hardwick, who wrote and directed "The Brothers," is an impressive man. Born into a working class family of 12 children, he made himself a lawyer, stand-up comic, and published novelist before trying his hand at filmmaking.
"The Brothers" is representative of a welcome mini-genre of non-violent movies about wealthy blacks in love and lust. It stretches at least as far back as Eddie Murphy's delightful "Boomerang" from 1992.
Non-blacks watching these "buppie" movies, however, may not understand why the male characters tend to have the upper hand in romance. In the black middle class mating market, the supply and demand balance is sharply skewed in favor of men. Today, there are simply far more black middle class single women than there are eligible black bachelors. For example, in graduate schools, black women outnumber black men by 80%.
Also, marriages to white women drain off a small but noticeable fraction of the most successful black men. According to the 1990 Census, a black man was 2.5 times more likely to be married to a white woman than a black woman was likely to be married to a white man.
That's why the only fight in "The Brothers" is between a beautiful black lady judge who is stalking Bellamy because he had dumped her and Bellamy's new blonde girlfriend. By the time the happy ending rolls around, however, a reformed Bellamy has learned to pass up blondes in favor of hitting only on black women. A movie with a white cast that took a similar stand against interracial dating would be barbecued alive, of course. Yet, considering the demographic odds they must endure, it's hard to criticize the black women who will cheer this scene.