The whole "urban romantic drama" genre jumped the shark a few years back when awful movies like Breakin' All The Rules and Brown Sugar finally proved that Black America was getting tired of watching Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union in every other movie. Since then, black comedy has shifted largely to church-centric coonfests a la Tyler Perry, rendering this old reliable formula of date night flicks obsolete.
Oddly enough, one of my favorite movies of this period actually did include Chesnut and Union, along with Vivica A. Fox and the always entertaining Anthony Anderson (who has since graduated to dramatic roles). 2001's Two Can Play That Game was about a LA ad-exec named Shante Smith (Fox) who hatched a 10-point plan to get her philandering man (Chesnut) back in line. It obviously wasn't Oscar material, but it was a tasteful movie with enough laughs to warrant repeat views when each time it airs on TNT, which is pretty frequently.
Peep one of my favorite scenes here. Sorry, but the language might not be safe for cubicle dwellers.
Anyways, while Anderson's career has taken off, the same can't be said for the movie's other stars. Fox is best known for briefly dating 50 Cent and undergoing a series of horrifying plastic surgeries. Chesnut tried to drop his prettyboy image and become a villain/bad guy in awful movies like Half Past Dead, failed miserably, and ended up doing chitin' circuit plays. Union still works, but is perhaps most notable for (allegedly) having ruined the marriage of NBA player Dwyane Wade.
So, when I heard there was a sequel, the aptly titled Three Can Play That Game, I figured it wouldn't be much of a problem getting the band back together. It's not exactly like they've got much better things to do. But of course, this being Hollywood and all, only Fox shows up for Three Can Play, and in a greatly reduced role. Oh, and the movie never even made it to theaters, instead heading to the celluloid graveyard of Straight-To-DVD releases. Losing an original's main star (Anderson) and skipping theaters is usually a surefire recipe for disaster, but Three Can Play is a pleasantly good movie that deserves consideration for your next weekend Netflix queue.
Three Can Play follows Shante, who has ditched the corporate hustle and moved to Atlanta to start her own "relationship consulting firm" where she essentially teaches her "keep him in line" tactics to women for an exorbitant fee. When Tiffany (Ice Cube's wife in Barbershop) catches her man Byron (Eve's boyfriend from Eve) in the throes of passion with his new boss (the wife from The Bernie Mac Show) Carla, she hires Shante to help her whip Bryon into shape and towards the altar. But Bryon's best friend (Tony Rock, Chris' younger brother from All Of Us) Gizzard adopts the Anthony Anderson role, advising Byron with counters to all of Shante's moves. In the end, will Byron choose his Apprentice-like career or love and happiness with Tiffany?
You're probably not enthused with the review thus far, but trust me, this movie's worth the rental, even if you never saw the original. Unlike today's Madea-fests, this movie is a reasonably intelligent romantic comedy about why some men won't commit and the lengths some women will go to to drag them down the aisle. Fox is pretty likable, which can't be said for most of her recent movies. The UPN/WB-All Stars supporting cast is a collection of folks whose faces you know with names you don't, but somehow the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I don't know if that analogy made any sense, but just take my word for it. Notorious hater that I am, if I say a movie's a good mindless way of blowing an evening at home, just trust me and do it.
Three Can Play That Game somewhat dispels the notion that sequels, especially those that go Straight To Blockbuster can't be just as entertaining (if not better) as the movies that proceeded them. It's a smart comedy with a storybook ending that deserves your $4. Throw it in your Netflix cue and enjoy.
Final Verdict: It's very possible that I'm giving this movie more credit than it deserves because I expected it to suck royally and was surprised that it didn't. Still, there's something to be said for a black comedy that you can watch without cringing or having What's Happenin' Now? and 227 flashbacks. Put it in your Netflix queue already. 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Three Can Play That Game [imdb]