“Brown Sugar” is one of those romantic comedies where two people who obviously belong together are kept apart for most of the running time before they finally realize what has been obvious to the rest of us from the beginning.
It is unfair to criticize such a film for being predictable, therefore, for surprises are not endemic to the genre. A more appropriate criterion is: While waiting for the inevitable conclusion, are we charmed, entertained or amused by what happens in the meantime?
In the case of “Brown Sugar,” the answer is no. This is cookie-cutter stuff, noteworthy for having an African-American cast — black romantic comedies are still rare — but for little else. Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan are suave, but they’re no, say, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Lathan plays Sidney, a music-magazine editor whose best friend Dre (Diggs) is a hip-hop record producer. Hip-hop has been their common theme since childhood; Sidney, in narration, uses her love for the music as a metaphor for her love for Dre. (The film begins with an interminable montage of real music stars talking about their love affair with hip-hop.)
Dre is about to marry the lovely Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) when Sidney almost confesses her love. It is obvious they’re right for each other: At Reese’s bridal shower, Sidney knows all the answers in the Dre trivia game. The wedding occurs, much to the consternation of Sidney’s no-nonsense girlfriend Francine (Queen Latifah, breathing some much-needed fresh air into the film), and then Sidney takes up with the hunky Kelby (Boris Kodjoe), even as she and Dre continue to share everything like the best friends they are.
Instead of nestling into the groove of a time-honored formula, I found myself wishing they would just get on with it. I knew where this was going, and the scenery along the way was pretty bland.
Part of the problem is that Dre and Sidney are too slick, so cool they’re cold. You admire them as people, but their aloofness doesn’t invite warmth or compassion.
The director and co-writer (with Michael Elliot) is Rick Famuyiwa, whose “The Wood” (1999) inspired similar feelings of indifference. I love the idea of an African-American urban romantic comedy, but being black does not automatically make the characters interesting or the story original.
C- (1 hr., 48 min.; )