Copyright 1999-2002 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

Bams' review of
Brown Sugar


Brown Sugar (2002)
Rated PG-13; running time 108 minutes
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Seen at: Celebration Cinema (Lansing, Michigan)
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Michael Elliot, Rick Famuyiwa
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Taye Diggs, Queen Latifah, Mos Def, Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

Knockaround Guys was the first of four "not bad, but..." releases this weekend; but Brown Sugar was the most disappointing of that ignoble group. Call me race-sensitive if you wanna, but we Black Chicks do root for Our People to excel. Some of us, more loudly than others...

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
For Sidney Shaw (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre Ellis (Taye Diggs), hiphop is what makes the world go around. It did when they first met while witnessing The Birth Of Hiphop; and some fifteen years later, it still does. Only, the world has changed around them. Hiphop is no longer about the street beat; now it's a multi-billion dollar business, filled with phonies and wannabes.

As an exec at Millennium Records, Dre is responsible for some of the way hiphop has changed, and he's not having it anymore. He strikes out on his own, with his discovery, a true hiphop artist named Chris (Mos Def), and tries to find real hiphop again.

Meanwhile, Sid, a music critic in her own right, isn't very satisfied with her life, either. She won't admit to anyone, not even her best friend Francine (Queen Latifah) that she has a Thing for Dre; she keeps supporting him, even when he becomes engaged to Reese (Nicole Ari Parker). Throwing herself into the book she's writing, Sid gets caught up in her own Thing with basketball star/manmountain Kelby (Boris Kodjoe) - a relationship Dre is not quite prepared to deal with.

And tomorrow on All My Ghetto Children...

From where I sat, Brown Sugar gave only minimal lip service to its supposed subject at hand: hiphop music. Indeed, except for the slammin' soundtrack, the hiphop artists that talked about their first love at the beginning of the movie, and Mos Def's very brief turn on stage during one scene, the phrase "hiphop" could've been completely dropped from this movie, with no noticeable damage done.

Well, except for its supposed context...which is why I think it was a mistake to try to force the context on this movie in the first place. Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa and co-writer Michael Elliot simply didn't provide enough real background to make me believe that either Sid or Dre were really all that much into hiphop (yes, I heard the Speeches. Still not convinced). Past the constant, irritating attempt to make hiphop a metaphor for this movie's ObLoveStory (I would've screamed if Sid had alluded to hiphop-as-Dre just one more time), it was a non-integral character in the movie, only serving to make Brown Sugar drag on past its usefulness as either a hiphop success story or a upwardly-mobile-Black-folks love story.

Put your pitchforks down, upwardly-mobile-Black-folks; I'm all for a good love story for us, by us, and especially about us. And I'm willing to believe that a good hiphop success story can be made, too. I'm just not convinced that Brown Sugar fit either category. True, Lathan and Diggs have a natural groove that comes from their pairing in previous similarly-themed movies like The Best Man and The Wood. But even with that familiarity of subject, I won't go so far as to say this movie was bordering on the been there/done thats; as far as I'm concerned, there still haven't been nearly enough solid Black Folks In Love mainstream movies released in this country. I also note for the record that Brown Sugar didn't take the easy "he stopped short of the altar" tease that many romantic comedies would have you believe happens on a regular basis. And ok, the Dalmatian rappers thingy was funny...once.

But this movie started too slowly, and was badly edited and shot (especially in the beginning; that first scene with Sanaa Lathan and Queen Latifah was painful to watch, and those stop-motion shots got on my last damn nerve). Famuyiwa simply didn't take good enough advantage of the talents of Lathan, Diggs, and Latifah (who was reduced to being little more than a clown. O, the pain). The movie picked up toward the middle somewhat, with one of the two best scenes being the ObCatfight between Sid and Reese. And on a positive note, Mos Def completely commanded every scene he was in. Unfortunately, there was too little of his character to grab onto, and by the time the 108 minutes were up, I was anxious for the movie to end.

All told, Brown Sugar was too light on the hip-hop, and too long and uninteresting to be a good love story. Too bad, too; with more tight focus on one or the other, I might've declared this flick a hit.

THE "BLACK FACTOR"    [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]

Put the kids to bed and tuck away your ethnic sensibilities; Bammer's 'bouta get Ghetto up in hea'.

My People, My People, my loud-ass-talkin', didn't-you-get-home-training?, y'all-need-your-asses-whupped, childish-acting People. Can y'all allow people who pay good money to see a Black movie, to see it all the way through without your diarrhea of the mouth, just this once? Ok, fine; Boris Kodjoe is foine...but if y'all would just shut the hell up, we might hear what he has to say once in awhile. Yes, I know that most Black people don't talk loud at the movies. And yes, I know that it's not just Black folk who talk, and talk LOUD, at the movies (as witnessed by that foulmouthed White child sitting three seats down from me at this show; a poster child for the 2002 Give A Thug A Swift Kick In The Ass campaign if ever I saw one). But dag, can y'all knuckleheads please please PLEASE stop living the stereotype? Damn, where's my belt?!?

For a movie with a title like Brown Sugar, this flick sure was devoid of much hiphop flava.

BROWN SUGAR:   fyellow

back to top

And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

Use the feedback form below to send your comments to Bams

More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed week of 10/11/02):
Bams' reviews:
Brown Sugar | Knockaround Guys | White Oleander

The Diva's reviews:
Brown Sugar | The Transporter

Cass' reviews:
Tuck Everlasting | The Rules Of Attraction

So, what do you think of this flick, or of the above commentary on it? Fill out the information below to let us know...

Would you like a response? Of course! Nah, not really...
Email address: (required)
What's your URL?

How did you find out about our site?
Link from another website   
other Usenet newsgroup   
email or mailing list   
search engine
other referral method   

    Which review are you commenting on?

    May we have your permission to post your comments on our site?
    Sure! Nope.

Comments (be as verbose as you'd like):

We take review requests! Movie review requested:

Want to share your thoughts and commentary with 3BC and others on this, or any other, show you've seen? Visit our "Viewer Voices" ™ webboard and let all of us hear what you have to say!

Search: Enter keywords... logo

Your visits to our sponsors help support 3BC!

Member OFCS

Home Page

Check this site weekly for more reviews!