Breakin' All the Rules

Robin Clifford
Robin Clifford 
Breakin' All the Rules
Laura Clifford
Laura Clifford 

Things seem to be going well for Quincy Watson (Jamie Foxx). He is engaged to a beautiful young woman, Helen (Bianca Lawson), and is a successful editor at Spoils magazine. But, on the night of their engagement party, Helen tells him that “things are too right, too easy” in their relationship and dumps the hapless Quincy. When his boss, Phillip Gascon (Peter MacNicol), enlists him in a workforce reduction (AKA: fire 15% of the magazine’s staff), the troubled editor can’t stomach the onerous task and quits. Now, with no girl and no job, Quincy decides to write Helen a letter from the heart. The result turns into The Breakup Handbook, a huge bestseller, and Quincy’s life goes into a spin in “Breakin’ All the Rules.”

A solid cast cannot make up for a script (by helmer Daniel Taplitz) that doesn’t just have a romantic triangle, but a rather confused hexagon that has every principle member of the film’s cast involved in some kind of multiple romantic relationships. Quincy is in love with Helen, but she wants to take a break and unceremoniously dumps him. His best friend and cousin, Evan (Morris Chestnut), is nearing the end of his self-imposed three-months-only commitment to Nicky (Gabrielle Union), and, after reading the draft of Quincy’s breakup tome, enlists his cousin to do the dirty deed and dump Nicky for him. Quincy reluctantly agrees and goes to a local bar in search of Eric’s longhaired beauty. Instead, he meets short coiffed Mary (really, Nicky) and tells her all about Eric’s plans. So, instead of Eric breaking with Nicky, she turns the tables. Quincy falls for Nicky.

Meanwhile, Quincy’s boss, Phillip, is involved with Rita Monroe (Jennifer Esposito), a conniving, money-grubbing and strong-willed woman who wants to marry the wealthy publisher and garner all the perks that would entail. Phil asks the master of breaking up to advise him on how to get rid of Rita, but she is wise to the plan and heads to Quincy’s place for a little seduction. Eric, getting drunk with Quincy’s pug (actually, it’s Helen’s dog but she dumps the poor pooch on Q), is confronted by Rita, who thinks he is home-wrecking Quincy. She uses her best assets to turn “Quincy” to her side and Eric becomes obsessed with the sexy, ambitious Rita. And, Helen comes back from Paris, finds Quincy smitten with Nicky and, of course, wants him back.

Script scribe Taplitz must have thought he crafted a clever and sophisticated satire on romantic involvement and the art of breaking up with your significant other. He based his story on the combination of the relationship ending antics of his real-life friend and research the helmer had done on the business art of firing an employee. He put these two things together and turned it into “Breakin’ All the Rules.” The idea of a breakup guide – kind of a step-by-step manual for the battle between the sexes – is a good one and, in the hands of a more experienced scripter it could have been much better.

If a romantic triangle is fun, then a fourth, fifth and sixth side to the story would have to be a quantum leap in mirth. But, there are so many interconnecting relationships that the premise becomes very forced and, often, confused and muddled. The very talented and personable ensemble cast, led by Foxx, is belabored with a story that tries in too many ways to show that breaking up is hard to do. The who’s-doing-whom drawing-room style farce replaces the traditionally manic slamming of doors with a whirl of characters coming in and out of the romantic action. It doesn’t take a genius that Quincy will end up with…. No, I’m overstepping a boundary in telling, but it is quite obvious even to an obtuse film critic like me.

Jamie Foxx gives a likable, amusing performance as Quincy. It helps that there is good chemistry between Foxx and Gabrielle Union, who made her starring debut effective in “Love & Basketball” and showed further chops opposite Kirsten Dunst in “Bring It On.” The two actors fit well together in “Breakin’ All the Rules,” making me wish for a better told story. Morris Chestnut is handsome and very funny as the non-committal Evan, garnering some of the film’s funniest scenes when paired with Quincy’s pug. (In a surprising non-PC story thread, the little pooch develops an alcohol dependency because of Evan’s actions.) Peter MacNicol does a solid job as the scaredy-cat but wealthy publisher who relies on others to do his dirty work. Jennifer Esposito is fine as the ambitious seductress, Rita. Bianca Lawson doesn’t get a lot to do as one side of Quincy’s romantic triangle.

Techs are sound but not notable.

“Breakin’ All the Rules” is too much of a good thing and tries too hard to force its several unlikely premises. The personable, good-looking cast helps things along somewhat but Daniel Taplitz’s script falls short of success. I give it a C+.

Laura did not review this film, but gives it a C - contrived script enlived by the performances of Foxx, Union and Chestnut.
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