In the Mix Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/23/2005
Some musicians I truly believe can act. Most of them have been from the world of rap music, but others, such as Usher Raymond (or just “Usher,” as he is credited on his albums), come from the world of R&B. In his first lead role, Usher was stuck with a dog of a script with In the Mix, and it really won’t help his ever-growing popularity or his ability to prove that he can act.
Darrell Williams (Usher) is a hot New York club deejay who spins for a club called the Liquid Lounge. He has a dream to start up a recording studio called Ultimate Records with his friend and partner Busta (Kevin Hart.) Darrell is a player who has a different woman each week, like the attractive but possessive Cherise (K.D. Aubert.) His 10-year-old neighbor Lexi (Isis Faust), who lives with her guardian, Big Momma (Jennifer Echols), thinks that all of these hoochies aren’t right for him. One night at the club, an old friend of his named Frankie Jr. (Anthony Fazio), a white hip-hop wannabe, asks him to deejay his sister Dolly’s (Emmanuelle Chriqui) surprise coming home party. Frankie is the son of New Jersey mob boss “Don” Frank Pacelli (Chazz Palminteri), and he wants welcome Dolly home from her summer holiday from law school in Oakland. Darrell’s dad used to work for Frank as a bartender in Frank’s restaurant, so he grew up with Frankie and Dolly, and Frank considers him a part of the family (he paid for Darrell’s education.) Dolly is engaged to fellow lawyer Chad (Geoff Stults), and she is being groomed for a position at his father’s firm. She arrives and shares a nice moment dancing with Frank to a Frank Sinatra tune. Suddenly, a drive-by shooting takes place, and Darrell saves both Dolly and her father by leaping in front of the bullet. He is shot in the right shoulder in the process, and Frank offers to have him stay at his house while he recuperates. Frank sees red and calls for a meeting with the North-side Jersey boss, Salvatore Vincenzo (Nick Mancuso), to find out if he was responsible for the attempted hit. Salvatore and his second-in-command, Angelo (Chris Tardio), deny any involvement, which Frank believes. Frank’s henchmen…Fat Tony (Robert Costanzo), Fish (Robert Davi), and especially the mean, racist Jackie (Matt Gerald)…think that Salvatore did do the job though. Frank wants to make sure that they don’t do anything impulsively until he finds out more about what went down. He also wants someone to be Dolly’s bodyguard though, which doesn’t make her happy. Frank first wants Jackie to guard her, but she doesn’t want him taking the job, or to have any of the other henchmen do it either. Frank allows Dolly to choose anyone she wants then, and she chooses Darrell. Her reasoning is that, since she and Darrell are friends, he will leave her alone. He does take the job seriously though, because he feels like he owes it to Frank to protect her properly. Even though Darrell isn’t given a gun, Frank does have his personal tailor, Gino (John David Conti), make him a proper but stylish bodyguard outfit. He follows Dolly everywhere: to the Aqua Day Spa, to her 6 AM yoga class, and to lunch with her friends Carly (Lana Underwood), Maya (Misti Traya), and Skye (Kristen Renton), where they ask him for guy advice, which ticks her off. Frank secretly has Jackie follow them around, and when a couple of other attempts on Dolly’s life are a little suspect, Frank tries to decide if having Darrell guard his daughter is a good thing. In the meantime, Dolly, who was miffed at Darrell’s intrusion before, is now developing feelings for him, which doesn’t make Frank happy, because she believes that Chad is able to provide a better life for her than Darrell.
This movie had to have been made for the paycheck in almost everyone’s case. Director Ron Underwood has had a wildly uneven career. He did the fun 1990 horror comedy Tremors and the hilarious 1991 Western City Slickers, but he is also the one responsible for the 2002 Eddie Murphy dog The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Jacqueline Zambrano wrote the screenplay (with story help by Chanel Capra, Cara Dellaverson, and Brian Rubenstein.) Apparently, Zambrano is the daughter of a real life mob boss, so she should know better. This PG-13-rated soft serve version of the mafia doesn’t exactly rank up there like classics like 1972’s The Godfather or 1990’s Goodfellas. It was meant to be a romantic comedy, but without any laughs or any realistic mob violence, it wasn’t enjoyable to watch.
Usher has made movies before, but this is his first lead role. He started well in the cool 1998 Robert Rodriguez sci-fi horror movie The Faculty, but he hasn’t made anything that good since (he has made three movies and one TV movie since The Faculty.) He does an okay job here, but with a script that’s just awful, it damages his performance. He co-executive produced the movie, but for some odd reason, he didn’t contribute much to the soundtrack (other than a collaboration with Rico Love.) Chriqui got a chance to have her first lead role as well, and the same bad script poisoned her. They made her really like Usher, and then hate him, then love him, which felt schizophrenic. She was recently in the movie Waiting as a lesbian bartender, but she was barely in it. While I liked Waiting, apparently neither movie will do much for her career. Palminteri played the millionth stereotyped mob boss, and he doesn’t stray too far from the formula. Hart was funny, but he was just imitating the characters that Chris Tucker usually plays. This is Fazio’s first film, but he is playing the extremely annoying newer stereotype…the white hip-hop wannabe. None of these actors will probably want to highlight this movie on their resume.
The only way I can describe In the Mix is through a series of Usher puns. Usher…”You Make Me Wanna” not see this movie again, and that is one of my “Confessions.” If “U Got It Bad” to see this movie, “U Don’t Have to Call” me to come with you, because I won’t be saying “Yeah!” I’d rather get “Caught Up” on some other movies, because I felt the “Burn” of this movie. I think that I will lay off the puns “Nice and Slow” now (I had to do it.)
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