Taye Diggs as Andre Romulus ‘Dre’ Ellis
Sanaa Lathan as Sidney Shaw
Mos Def as Chris (as MosDef)
Nicole Ari Parker as Reese Marie Wiggins
Boris Kodjoe as Kelby
Queen Latifah as Francine
Wendell Pierce as Simon
Erik Weiner as Ren
Reggi Wyns as Ten
Melissa Martinez as Meghan
“Brown Sugar” is a harmless, yet ultimately poignant romantic comedy that makes a great attempt on making a modern African American take on “When Harry Met Sally”. Backed by a talented cast, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan carry the film effectively and the audience is invited to laugh along with the proceedings. Brown Sugar follows Barbershop as modern African American film that is made with a serious story intact, but also opens up for some great comedic scenes.
The film is from the point of view of Sidney (Lathan) as she is a music writer for the LA Times who is writing a book on her love for hip hop, the genre of music that started in the 80s. Her best friend Dre (Diggs) lives in New York and she takes a job as editor of XXL magazine in New York and Dre is pleased to have her around. They have been friends since Sidney discovered hip hop on a New York street corner and she has loved Dre from that point on.
As Sidney moves to New York, she finds Dre is in love with Reese (Nicole Ari Parker). Sidney isn’t visibly jealous, but Dre decides to ask Reese to marry him and Sidney disapproves. Even with her disapproval, Dre marries Reese, but not before kissing Sidney the night before. Will Dre stay with Reese (or “Brown Sugar” as refers to her as) or realize he loves Sidney?
Director Rick Famuyiwa has a made a quaint little film that achieves what it sets out to do; entertain the audience for an hour and a half. It moves along at a brisk pace and never really becomes too boring for a long stretch of time.
The film follows Sanaa Lathan and she makes a very appealing protagonist. Her love for hip hop music is compared with her love of Dre and this premise works for a majority of the movie (despite a few voice-overs that sound awkward because they don’t make much sense). Lathan and Taye Diggs have great chemistry and they actually seemed like they could be friends.
Taye Diggs is very natural as Dre. He plays the part with the right amount of sarcasm and sincerity that is reminiscent of Jerry Maguire. His friendship with Mos Def was started awkwardly in the film (there was no back story to how these guys know each other), but it develops well over the latter half of the film.
Queen Latifah isn’t very funny as Lathan’s big-mouthed best friend. Her lines feel forced, especially when acting opposite Mos Def’s subtle, instinctive acting. The audience responded well to all her scenes, though, because the sharpness of the writing.
Rick Famuyiwa’s direction was very solid; he uses some split screen and keeps the viewer on his toes. The hip hop testimonial at the start was well placed and exceptionally well edited. The romantic comedy in the film played much more naturally than Sweet Home Alabama’s annoying, in-your-face humor. The soundtrack is well used and the references to old hip hop songs may have been lost on me, but they only further enjoyment if you get them.
The script is notable because it takes some digs at the modern sterilization of hip hop music. Eminem is parodied with a rap group that was called “101 Dalmatians” (one white guy and one black guy).
I recommend seeing the film if you’re in a relaxing mood and like to see a well made romantic comedy, rather than seeing “Sweet Home Alabama”.