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Sunday, October 27, 2013

THREE CAN PLAY THAT GAME -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review was originally posted at in 2008.)

If Oprah Winfrey ever drops by my house to watch a movie, I'll stick THREE CAN PLAY THAT GAME (2008) into the DVD player and then lock myself in the bathroom for two hours.  This is the kind of movie that might go over big at a girls' pizza sleepover or something, but for me it was just soul-crushing.

In this sequel to 2001's TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME, Viveca Fox is Shanté, a relationship expert who counsels Tiffany (Jazsmin Lewis) through a rough patch with her man Byron (Jason Winston George).  Byron just won a reality TV show called "The Trainee" and his fame is attracting all sorts of female attention, particularly from the show's amorous producer, Carla.  When Carla comes on to Byron in the men's room and Tiffany catches them together, Shanté comes to the rescue with her infallible five-step program to help the distraught Tiffany train dat dawg to sit up and beg.

If you think it's funny to see some poor guy get nagged and played into marriage then you'll probably enjoy this.  For me, it was like watching a horror movie with Byron as the innocent victim and Shanté, Tiffany, and Tiffany's clucky "you go, girlfriend" girlfriends as the flesh-eating zombies surrounding the house moaning "Brains!  Braaaains!"  Except instead of that, they'd be saying "Marriage!  Maaaarriage!"

Viveca Fox is insufferably smarmy and smug as Shanté.  At one point Byron comes to her for help, and she pretends to be on his side while actually playing him for Tiffany's benefit, which just ain't cricket.  The rest of the time she's giving Tiffany pointers on how to most effectively manipulate him, including teasing and denial ("Forget diamonds--blue balls are a girl's best friend!"), mind games, guilt trips, and other stomach-roiling activities.  All of which had me cringing with horror when I was supposed to be laughing along with the lighthearted fun.

Tiffany keeps whining about how much she loves Byron but she seems more interested in simply snagging a husband.  There's really not much to like about her character.  Byron is likable enough although it's depressing to see this previously happy guy mired in a web of jealousy and jerked around between the various matrimony vultures (especially Tiffany's shallow, conniving girlfriends) hovering over him as though he were a slab of fresh carrion.

The only bright spot in the movie is Tony Rock (HITCH, "All of Us") as Byron's playa friend Gizzard, who suppies Byron with his own dubious relationship advice to try and counteract Shanté's evil machinations.  He's funny but in a more down-to-earth way than the usual Eddie Griffin-type shuck 'n' jive sidekick.  He kept reminding me of a more subtle Chris Rock, which made sense when I found out that they're brothers.  But not even Gizzard is immune to the sinister Shanté's scheming when she aims a gorgeous babe named Candy his way in order to split up the guy team.

Melyssa Ford as Candy, by the way, truly is "all that."  Yikes!  Shanté actually does Gizzard a favor by hooking him up with this gorgeous babe.  As soon as she walked onscreen, I started doing that "Ha cha-cha-cha!" thing that Jimmy Durante used to do.  And Kellita Smith (FEEL THE NOISE, ROLL BOUNCE) as the sexy knockout Carla is another reason I was able to get through this movie.  Carla keeps urging Byron to fly off to Seattle with her to tape the next season of "The Trainee", and I kept thinking "Do it, Byron!  DO IT!"

THREE CAN PLAY THAT GAME tries to be lighthearted and quirky but it just can't rise above Mark Brown's leaden script and Mody Mod's lackluster direction.  The old "needle being dragged off the record" sound effect is used three times, which indicates the extent of comic invention on display here.  And we get yet another one of those wacky wedding day finales where love conquers all and the guys learn that they can never be truly happy unless they're married.  And to think that a guy wrote this--what is he, nuts?

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