Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: The Breaks (1999)
Studio Line: Artisan Entertainment - He's a brother who pales by comparison.

The Breaks is a hip-hop hilarious comedy in the tradition of Friday and Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood. Mitch Mullany plays Derrick -- an Irish white boy who thinks he's black -- facing a day in the hood when everything goes wrong. The luck of the Irish doesn't quite seem to work in the hood. With special appearances by basketball great Gary Payton and funk legend George Clinton.

Director: Eric Meza
Cast: Loretta Devine, Mitch Mullany, Paula Jal Parker, Carl Anthony Payne II, Clifton Powell
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English Dolby Surround; subtitles none; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; 26 chapters; rated R; 86 min.; $24.98; street date 5/16/00.
Supplements: Trailer; Cast and Crew Information; Production Notes.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B/C+/D-

High concept time: a white boy in the 'hood! The idea sounds cheesy to me, but somebody thought it would make a good movie, so we get The Breaks as a result.

Like fellow ghetto-based comedy Friday, The Breaks follows the wacky events that occur all within one brief period of time. The main difference stems from the fact our protagonist Derrick (Mitch Mullany) is seriously deficient in pigment; although he's been raised for many years by a black family, he still just can't fit in, can he?

Well, actually he can, for the most part, as The Breaks doesn't mine very many laughs from the usual "fish out of water" concept. (It doesn't mine many laughs period, but that's a different issue.) The Breaks flirts with some of the issues portrayed in Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" but really shows Derrick as pretty well-integrated within the community. Some goofiness of demeanor is emphasized, but this isn't some wanna-be; Derrick seems very much a part of the group here.

As such, the movie pursues most of its twists simply from the antics that occur during the day in question. Derrick's rather irresponsible, and his momma's going to kick him out of the house unless he can accomplish one small task: bring home a carton of milk for dinner. Of course, this won't be simple; if it were, there wouldn't be much of a movie.

Even as difficult as the job becomes, there still isn't much of a movie. The Breaks provides an awful lot of crude, lowest-common-denominator humor that just seems crass most of the time. I'll admit that it has a few moments - any film with a joke that refers to the McDLT can't be all bad in my book - but the clunker to hit ratio's awfully weak, and most of the movie left me cold.

A lot of that stems from the gross caricatures forwarded in the film. Granted, The Breaks is an equal-opportunity offender; blacks, whites, gays, Asians - virtually every group gets insulted here. I don't know if that's progress, but at least no one can claim the movie has any particular agenda (though - unsurprisingly - gays come off worst of all).

Nonetheless, the movie really seemed awfully broad and crude. I don't think it's worse than nasty Farrelly brothers offerings like There's Something About Mary or Kingpin, but considering my disaffection for those films, that doesn't say much. While The Breaks tosses out a few decent bits, the majority of the film falls flat and fails to amuse.

The DVD:

The Breaks appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture shows some problems, it largely looks pretty good.

Sharpness seems generally crisp and precise, though some light softness intrudes on occasion. I noticed virtually no concerns with moiré effects or jagged edges, however, and I also saw very few artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. Print flaws were fairly minor as well, though they caused some issues. I saw light grain at times, and I also witnessed periodic speckling and grittiness.

Colors appeared a little muddy but usually seemed fairly accurate and well-saturated, with no signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels were somewhat drab but looked fairly dark and deep, though shadow detail could be flat and slightly hazy; the latter wasn't a significant problem, but I thought some low-light scenes were overly thick. Still, I found the image of The Breaks to appear generally positive.

Less strong is the film's Dolby Surround soundtrack. The soundfield seemed rather restricted with little life to it. Really, significant portions of it came across as glorified mono; activity occurred in the other speakers but the focus stayed strongly on the center. Some music and effects spread to the sides, and the surrounds added a layer of light reinforcement, but as a whole, I thought the track remained unimpressive in scope, even for a comedy.

Audio quality seemed erratic but generally acceptable. At times dialogue sounded flat, and it also displayed some edginess on occasion, but speech usually appeared fairly natural and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects seemed pretty weak as far as their dynamics went; they were a bit thin and feeble, but they weren't distorted or rough at least. The music generally sounded quite good, with some strong bass and acceptable clarity. In this rather bland soundtrack, it was these tunes that brought the mix up to a still-mediocre "C+"; without the music, my rating would have been lower.

The Breaks skimps on supplemental features. We find the movie's original theatrical trailer plus some solid text production notes on the DVD; the booklet provides some additional details as well. Finally, we get brief and perfunctory biographies for nine actors and four crew members. It's not a terrible package, but it's pretty weak.

As is the movie itself. The Breaks had three or four solid laughs, but too much of the rest of the film was crude and distasteful. The DVD offers very good picture but only mediocre sound and few extras. Fans of crass comedy may like The Breaks, but I didn't find much of value in it.

Support DVD Movie Guide, visit our sponsors.

Menu: DVD Movie Guide | Archive | Top