By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
DELIVER US FROM EVA IS ALSO ABOUT ASSIMILAtion and identity. Working from a script he co-wrote with James Iver Mattson and B.E. Brauner, director Gary Hardwick covers similar terrain as in 1999's abysmal The Brothers, which he alone wrote and directed. The input from his two partners seems to have helped Hardwick move a bit beyond the lowbrow BET-on-the-big-screen sensibility of his earlier film and aim toward classic Hollywood romantic comedy. That's not to say that there aren't some grating, race-based flaws in the movie (Kim Whitley's tired fat-bawdy-horny-home-girl shtick; Dartanyan Edmonds as a corn-rowed, arm-flailing quipster), but Deliver Us From Evaaims a little higher than your average mainstream Negro cinema. Deliver Us From Evais a comfortably bourgeois effort, both in its aesthetics and its sense of humor, unlike the ghetto-centric fare that consitutes so much modern black cinema. And unlike The Brothers, Eva is actually pretty funny.
The title character, played by Gabrielle Union, is the tough, ball-busting eldest of the beautiful Dandridge sisters. While her three siblings all have husbands or boyfriends (who loathe Eva, and vice versa), Eva is dedicated solely to her career, having been the family provider since the girls' parents died years earlier. Tired of her interference in their lives, the trio of menfolk hire Ray (LL Cool J), a notorious womanizer, to woo Eva then dump her, with the idea that a broken heart will cure her of her meddlesome ways. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and true love flips the script on everyone.
Hardwick doesn't have the chops yet to give the movie the caffeinated zip that it needs to really fly. There are too many dull, flat stretches (particularly the scenes in which characters display what lies beneath their public personae) and not enough good writing. But the gorgeous Union is clearly having a ball as she mugs and snaps off her lines. Managing to pull off what Vivica A. Fox — too cold, too scarily ghetto, even in designer duds — has been trying to do for years in movies like Two Can Play That Game and Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Union wins you over to the movie while making you wish she had a script smart enough to really serve her talents. Meanwhile, LL Cool J solidifies his leading-man status (his trademark licking-of-the-lips and deeply sculpted physique had women at the press screening catcalling for him) and proves he can act. Deliver Us From Eva is by no means classic filmmaking, but rather a breezy date flick or an amiable weekend matinee. And the soundtrack kicks ass.
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