Refusing to Exhale could be the title of The Brothers, according to writer-director Gary Hardwick (Trippin’). But unlike the mahogany heroines of director Forest Whitaker’s Waiting to Exhale (1995), the bourgeois brothers ain’t even holding their breath for love — or so they think.
The brothers are all that, ya dig? “We single, black professional men, the cream of the crop!” Brian (Bill Bellamy, How to Be a Player) reminds his three friends after their weekly after-office basketball game. Later, over drinks, Terry (Shemar Moore, “The Young and the Restless”) drops the bomb: He’s getting married. The shock wave causes all four men to face up to their relationship issues.
After a disastrous relationship with Judge Carla Williams (Angela Brooks, Shafted!), attorney Brian is through with sisters, but white women, such as self-defense instructor Jesse Caldwell (Julie Benz, Jawbreaker), just seem to give a brother a taste of attitude with a different flavor. Derrick (D.L. Hughley, The Original Kings of Comedy) has bedroom issues with his wife Sheila (Tamala Jones, Next Friday). Pediatrician Jackson Smith (Morris Chestnut, The Best Man) seems to look at all romantic relationships like looking down the barrel of a cocked gun. And if Terry’s feet could get any colder, he’d need a morgue toe-tag.
Waiting to Exhale and The Brothers are opposite sides of the same coin: the battle of the sexes in black America. Both are basically soap operas, but while Waiting to Exhale is a sexy, ensemble-cast melodrama for the ladies, The Brothers is a melodramatic sex comedy for the guys (though there’s plenty of USDA prime choice beefcake for anyone who’s interested) that focuses most strongly on Jackson.
Though The Brothers touches on some deep issues, its characters and plot have many a thin patch. How could I wait — or refuse — to exhale when The Brothers never took my breath away.
E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].