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Rick Famuyiwa
Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Mos Def, Ralph E. Tresvant, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Queen Latifah
Writing Credits:
Michael Elliot and Rick Famuyiwa

The Rhythm The Love The Beat ...and you don't stop
Box Office:
Budget $8 million.
Opening weekend $10.738 million on 1372 screens.
Domestic gross $27.362 million.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English, Spanish

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 2/11/2003

• Full-Length Audio Commentary By Director Rick Famuyiwa and Film Editor Dirk Westervelt
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Music Videos: Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop) By Erykah Badu Featuring Common and Brown Sugar (Extra Sweet) By Mos Def Featuring Faith Evans
• Theatrical Trailer

Music soundtrack

Search Products:

TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


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Brown Sugar (2002)

Reviewed by David Williams (February 9, 2003)

Brown Sugar is an interesting new twist on an old story – the romantic comedy. Brown Sugar, while a love story at heart, takes place in the world of rap/hip-hop, with many of its icons and founding fathers (Doug E. Fresh, Dana Dane, Big Daddy Kane - Sweet!) playing minor roles. Other icons make appearances as well, such as the city of New York, the birthplace of the art form. The film also spotlights Webster Hall, one of the early venues for artists; radio station Hot 97 and DJ Angie Matinez, one of the first outlets for rap airplay; and even urban rap magazine XXL plays an integral part in the film as it’s the employer for one of the main characters. However, while it’s obvious hip-hop plays an integral part in the film, it’s still nothing more than some window dressing that provides our main characters with a way to make a living as they work to sort out problems involving something that plagues us all at some point in our lives – LOVE. That being the case, the film would’ve worked if the principals were stockbrokers or bankers or janitors.

The film introduces us to Sydney (Sanaa Lathan), an LA Times music critic who has been hired away from her current job in Los Angeles to take on editorial duties at hip-hop magazine XXL back in her hometown of New York. She opens the film with an introspective monologue that tries to convey to the viewer where she was when she first discovered her love for hip-hop. Her answer takes us back to 1984, on the streets and playgrounds of her beloved New York City, as she and her young friend Dre (Taye Diggs), watched a trio of rappers (Doug E. Fresh, Dana Dane, and Slick Rick playing themselves – very nice) “battle” in order to see who had the best rhymes. She relates how each of the rappers hit the big time soon thereafter and how she and Dre became best friends for life at the same time.

When Dre gets word that Sydney is moving back to New York, he’s beside himself and totally excited to be reunited with his old pal. We find that Dre is in the music business as well, as he’s working as a mid-level executive for Millennium Records. He’s become totally discouraged and disheartened with the company, as he feels that they are signing too many acts with too little talent. Case in point; the hilarious Ren & Ten, “The Hip-Hop Dalmatians”, a white/black act whose big plans are to remake the Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson hit “The Girl Is Mine” into “The Ho is Mine”. I think the label’s problems speak for themselves. Dre has his eye on a local cabbie, Chris (Mos Def in a surprisingly good performance), who truly has the skills to pay the bills and bring in big bucks for the company.

However, Brown Sugar sophomorically telegraphs its intent within the first 5-minutes of the film, as it falls prey to the all-too-familiar trap of ridiculously simplistic foreshadowing. The audience knows that Sydney and Dre are meant for each other right from the start – however, it takes our principals much longer to realize it. Here’s how Brown Sugar gets us there: Dre is married to a very beautiful and very successful lawyer Reese (Nicole Ari Parker), while Sydney on the other hand is engaged to a romantically sensitive basketball player, Kelby (Boris Kodje). With each of the friends having a significantly significant other, how will Dre and Sydney ever realize they’re made for each other? Hmmmm …

Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan come across as genuinely great friends and when the film calls for it, make a magnificently good-looking romantic couple. Lathan comes across as very sexy and smooth as silk, while Diggs adds a welcome bit of unassertive shyness to his character and seems to be genuinely conflicted when dealing with the problem of being in love with two women at the same time. Having all the old school rappers, as well as some new ones, make appearances in the film as themselves was a breath of fresh air and as usual, Queen Latifah turns in a solid performance as Sydney’s straight-shooting cousin.

Director Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood) has come out with another charming film that connects with audiences everywhere – black or white – and he gets a lot of mileage out of the traditional “chick flick” storyline with a very witty and sharp script co-written by Michael Elliott. While Brown Sugar doesn’t break much new ground in the romantic comedy genre, it’s a decent enough that you won’t feel ripped if you pick it up as a weekend rental for you and your sweetie.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B- / Bonus C-

Presented in an anamorphically enhanced transfer in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Fox’s Brown Sugar looks pretty good, although it does leave a little room for improvement. Fox includes a fullscreen version of the film for those so inclined, but for purposes of my review, I’ll only cover the widescreen version.

The film contains a very warm and earthy palette and Fox has done a pretty good job of portraying the down-to-earth hues quite well. The fall colors that permeate the film look quite inviting and everything seemed properly balanced and contrasted without any smearing or oversaturation noted. Fleshtones were accurate and natural throughout, although black levels weren’t as deep and defined as I would have expected. During some nighttime scenes or scenes shot in dark interiors, there was a bit of breakup and murkiness seen on the print and while shadow detail and delineation were solid, some grain on the transfer caused things to go a bit soft on a couple of occasions. I did notice a couple of specks on the print, but flaws were few and far between and definitely of the non-distracting variety.

Again, Brown Sugar looks quite nice and fans of the film won’t be disappointed with the end result. However, Fox left a little on the field here and didn’t quite bring the film up to its exceptionally high standards of quality. However, given the theatrical take for the film, it’s quite understandable.

Fox gives Brown Sugar a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is appropriate for the material at hand, but somewhat surprising considering all of the hip-hop music used in the film. Being a romantic comedy at heart, the film’s transfer is very forward spectrum heavy and contained nice separation and localization in the front surrounds. Dialogue remained front and center throughout the film and there were never any problems understanding what was being said at any time. There were some occasions where the soundtrack ever so slightly drowned out some of the dialogue, but never to a point where intelligibility suffered completely. Effects were minimal and non-descript, although natural and the film’s soundtrack received nice dynamic range and fidelity and utilized your rear surrounds quite nicely on occasion.

Fox has also added a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix in French, English and Spanish subtitles, and English Closed Captions.

Fox throws a few supplements at viewers for Brown Sugar, with the most notable being the Audio Commentary with director Rick Famuyiwa and editor Dirk Westervelt. The commentary is rather laborious to get through as Famuyiwa has been blessed with one of the more monotone voices I’ve heard on a commentary in quite some time. While I’m sure he’s a great guy to work for or go out and have a beer with, he’s not particularly entertaining in Fox’s feature length commentary. He and Westervelt offer up some interesting stories from behind-the-scenes and what it was like shooting the film, but there’s not a whole lot here you haven’t heard before. It also doesn’t help that there are some rather lengthy spots in the track where absolutely nothing is said and it becomes really easy to lose interest altogether. DVD aficionados won’t find much to keep them engaged, although hard-core fans of Brown Sugar might want to give this one a listen.

Deleted Scenes follow and here we get four deleted scenes from the film with optional commentary from director Rick Famuyiwa and editor Dirk Westervelt. The scenes included are “Method Man” (1:47), “Poppin’ in the Park” (2:03), “Cup of Sex” (1:06), and “Francine’s Advice” (1:02). The scenes, as well as the commentary, are a nice addition to the set and the duo does a good job of explaining why these particular scenes weren’t able to make it in the final cut. The scenes are presented in widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0.

An Antwone Fisher Trailer finished off the extras … but wait … in a ridiculously maddening move, Fox has added other supplements on the other side of the disc rather than duplicating them on both sides. (A freakin’ extras flipper for a film that runs less than 2-hours and a DVD that contains hardly any extras?!?) You have got to be kidding …

Along with the fullscreen version of the film, on the second side of the Brown Sugar DVD, we find a couple of Music Videos - one with Erykah Badu Featuring Common: “Love of my Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)” and the other being Mos Def Featuting Faith Evans: “Brown Sugar (Extra Sweet)”.

The disc ends with a Promo Spot for the soundtrack and a Theatrical Trailer for the film.

While this isn’t a great set of supplements by any stretch, considering the box-office take for the feature, it’s an acceptable amount. Fans of the film should enjoy the deleted scenes and the commentary, but will more than likely find themselves wanting just a little bit more.

Brown Sugar is one of those films that falls squarely in the middle – it’s not a bad film by any stretch, but it doesn’t do anything to set itself apart either – it’s just one of those romantic comedies that you watch, you enjoy, and then you move on. However, Fox’s DVD provides fans with a couple of decent extras to supplement the film and the A/V specs are solid enough that there’s not much to complain about. If you saw the film in theaters and enjoyed it, by all means, pick a copy up when it streets – however, all others should pick it up as a weekend rental first.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6363 Stars Number of Votes: 33
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