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Friday, October 16, 2015

IN THE MIX -- Movie Review by Porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online in 2006.)

"Blah." That's the word that comes to mind when I think of IN THE MIX (2005), the story of a hip black DJ who takes a bullet for a mob boss' daughter and ends up becoming her bodyguard, and then also ends up falling in love with her. The makers of this movie threw the elements of comedy, romance, and crime drama into the "mix" but didn't shake very well. The results are undercooked, and could've used more garlic.

 Usher, who's an okay actor, plays Darrell the DJ. He keeps the club hippin' and hoppin' with the help of his comedy-relief sidekick Busta (Kevin Hart), who, if you think gratingly annoying people are funny, is hilarious.

The club is loud and flashy but not very much fun -- it really needs Tom Cruise's hitman character from COLLATERAL DAMAGE to come in and shoot it up. But all we get are a couple of tired stereotypical Mafia hoods who want to hire Darrell to supply music for the surprise homecoming party of their boss' daughter, who has been away at law school.

One of the hoods is played by Robert Davi, who was such a good bad guy in the Bond film LICENSE TO KILL, but he's pretty much wasted in this role. The other hood is Robert Costanzo's "Fat Tony", fulfilling the unwritten requirement that all movies with Mafia guys in them have to have a character named "Fat Tony."

 Soon Darrell is spinning Sinatra platters for boss Frank and his cronies in Frank's bar, where Darrell's dad used to be the bartender. Frank's daughter Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui) arrives, is surprised, and then shares some cute dialogue with Darrell which forms the basis for their impending romance, which you just know you're going to have to endure sooner or later. Suddenly Darrell looks through the front window and spots a car driving by with a gun sticking out of the window. Thinking fast, he dives between Frank and Dolly and the gun, taking the bullet himself.

 Frank is understandably grateful, and invites Darrell to recover at his house. When Dolly balks at having one of Frank's sweaty, socially-impaired button men escort her whenever she leaves the house from that point onward, Darrell is given the job as her bodyguard. Dolly thinks this'll be great until she finds he takes the job seriously and refuses to let her out of his sight, whether it be at her yoga class (where we get the standard comedy bit about the horny guy in a room full of women bending over with their tushies in the air) or a dinner date with "the girls", where Darrell really, like, annoys Dolly by being the center of attention with his overwhelming chick-magnetism.

 But when someone tries to run her down in the street and he saves her life yet again, she gradually begins to see him in a different light, and the seeds of slow-motion-lap-dissolve-montage love are planted. What they don't know, however, is that Frank has had them tailed by one of his goons the whole time, who scurries back and blabs to Frank that his daughter has come down with a bad case of "jungle fever", which Frank, tolerant and open-minded though he may be, finds generally upsetting. So they go after Darrell, who ends up dunked in a hot tub surrounded by Fat Tony's bubbling man gravy, then dumped onto the sidewalk back in "the hood."

Meanwhile, the script occasionally sorta reminds us that this is also a Mafia movie by showing us Frank's guys having tense meetings in alleyways and parking lots with Frank's rival, Salvatore (Nick Mancuso) and his goons. Frank thinks Salvatore is behind the attempts on his daughter's life, but Salvatore swears on his dear departed mother's grave or the souls of his grandchildren or whatever that it isn't him. So if it isn't him, who's behind it all?

You're just dying to know, aren't you? Well, at the end of the movie you find out, and Dolly gets kidnapped, and Darrell tries to save her and gets tied up, and Frank shows up, and there's a shoot-out, but it's not a very exciting shoot-out, even though the hilariously-annoying Busta and Dolly's "I wish I was black, yo" brother Frank, Jr. (Anthony Fazio) are on hand to provide some more comedy relief to remind us that this is also a comedy, sorta.

 Except it's not really much of anything. The romance is lukewarm, the Mafia stuff is by-the-numbers and dull, and the comedy is half-hearted -- none of it really comes together. Usher's likable enough, and so is Emmanuelle Chriqui, but most of the other characters are irritating and/or underdeveloped. And Chazz Palminteri, who plays Frank, has gotten to the point where he can walk through a role like this in his sleep.

IN THE MIX isn't totally, choke-yourself bad, but if you're expecting a movie that deftly blends comedy with crime drama-type stuff you'd be better off renting ANALYZE THIS. At least that movie kind of got the mix right.


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