Directed by: Ron Underwood
Starring: Usher, Chazz Palminteri, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Robert Davi, Anthony Fazio
Heavy-hitting R&B star Usher apparently has a following, but they don't seem to be lining up for this lame vanity project that's being palmed off as a real movie.
The fact that In the Mix was directed by the fellow who gave us The Adventures of Pluto Nash enters into the equation, though I doubt that too many Usher fans have concerned themselves with who directed him in his first starring role. Maybe they just smelled a stinker. They would not have been wrong.
Star vehicles like this are hardly new. Even Bing Crosby's earlier films are little more than attempts to cash in on the crooner's radio and recording popularity, and it would be a kindness to pass over the bulk of Elvis' screen career. That is, it would be at any other time than when discussing In the Mix, which makes me long for the brilliant writing and emotional complexity of It Happened at the World's Fair.
At least in Bing and Elvis' movies, the filmmakers let their stars do what they were known for -- namely, sing. Here, however, someone got the bright idea that Usher (Usher Raymond, to give him his full name) should just act. Perhaps they should have determined whether he was capable of that feat first. Let it be said that as an actor, Usher would probably make a pretty good zither player.
Then again, it can't be said that In the Mix offers all that much opportunity for acting. It's a one-joke premise in search of a plot it never really finds. Usher plays a DJ (why not a singer?) named Darrell who takes a bullet for mob boss Frank (Chazz Palminteri) and is somehow railroaded into playing bodyguard to Frank's daughter, Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Wrong Turn).
Preposterous yet simple enough, right? You'd think so, but the film can't seem to decide whether Darrell took a bullet for Frank (as is plainly shown) or for Dolly (as is later stated). Perhaps it doesn't matter, since all this is only build up to circumstances offering no end of evidence that women will flock from the four corners of the room to fawn over Darrell. I'm personally unpersuaded that they're doing this for any reason other than that it says they should in the script -- or in Usher's contract (which would probably make for better reading).
There's also some nonsense about a gang war going on for reasons that are never very clear, plus the inevitable romance between Darrell and Dolly amidst interminable scenes of Frank cooking spaghetti sauce and listening to Verdi. Oh, yes, there's also some lame comedy involving Frank Jr. (newcomer Anthony Fazio), who rabbits on in wannabe gangster-speak so torturous that even Darrell's in-the-hood sidekick, Busta (Kevin Hart, Soul Plane), can't understand him. (Darrell mostly talks like he just came from Princeton, except in a stupid scene involving a tailor who wants to measure his inseam.) The whole thing would be offensive, except that it's all just too dumb to be worth the effort of being offended.
In the Mix is strictly for people who like to look at Usher. But even they would be better advised to buy a poster of him, since it will last longer and give a more credible performance. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence and language.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke