September 2001
Two Can Play That Game

Reviewed by Midas

Two Can Play That Game

Distributor:Screen Gems
Writer and Director:Mark Brown
Produced by:Doug McHenry, Mark Brown, Paddy Cullen
Executive Producers:Larry Kennar, Robert N. Freid, Scott Wynne
Running Time:90 minutes
Cast:Vivica A. Fox, Anthony Anderson, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Tamala Jones, Monique, Ray Wise, Bobby Brown, Dondre T. Whitfield, Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut

Mark Brown’s “Two Can Play That Game” in many ways could be dubbed the African American Cats versus Dogs or Battle of the Sexes. The fact is, in many ways this blanket statement highlights the next installment into the middle-class, bourgeoisie (bougie) African-American world. Brown flips the script on his co-written “How To Be A Player,” and presents the main female character, Shante (Vivica A. Fox), as omnipotent when it comes to navigating the quagmire that is relationships. Her friends rely on her Ph.D. in relationships and she is often consoling the neurotic musings of her girlfriends. Everything in Shante’s life is lovely until she finds her lawyer beau dancing with a coworker. The confident Shante is forced to maneuver on several levels. She must present the calm façade that her friends perceive her to possess. Shante must also teach her man, Keith (Morris Chestnut), an invaluable lesson on recognizing what he has and that even the slightest hint of infidelity will not be tolerated. Finally, she must not cave in and take Keith back too soon. Fortunately or unfortunately, she has a well-defined rulebook for achieving the above.

The movie details the rules and their impact on the couple’s struggle to reconcile. Throughout the movie, Shante and Keith show signs of cracking and submitting, but both resist, sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire. Keith’s descent is especially humorous, as his character is pushed down with two hands by the hilariously funny, Tony (Anthony Anderson). Anderson’s character steals the show and his performance is noteworthy among a seemingly strong cast. In many ways, he almost eclipses Fox’s character with his witty repartee. However, Shante is a character herself and fun to watch, especially since 2 hours of Vivica eye candy is a tasty treat. One leaves the theater wondering why beautiful black women do not get more starring roles? Burn Hollywood Burn!

Although the film is not a major departure from previous films like “How To Be A Player,” it does have some very funny moments. Fox is strong as the lead/narrator and Anderson provides substantial comic relief. However, the characters played by Mo’Nique, Tamala Jones, and Wendy Racquel Robinson provide no additional substance to the film. These talented women are underutilized and their dialogue does not do them justice. This is a shame and the movie potentially may have been considerably more enjoyable with them providing greater and more intelligent comedic contributions. Can anyone in Hollywood write a black female role that does not leave the audience wondering how to fit her with a straight jacket? The problem is not these actresses, but it is the writing.

Despite some shortcomings, the film has just enough comedic and entertaining moments for those of you seeking some laughs after paying $8-$10. The ending is a little weak, but there is just so much we can expect from this type of film. For those of you looking to be enlightened or challenged intellectually go to your local 7-11 and investigate how they make those Slurpees because “Two Can Play That Game” has none of that educational or lasting message stuff. This formula, like most for black films, has been used and abused. This film is not bad, but it could have and should have been better.


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