`G' should be `B' for bland, boring

MovieReview

September 16, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Does hip-hop have heart?" a journalist repeatedly asks in G, as though the answer is both mysterious and revelatory. Of course, as anyone who's ever heard Diddy sing "I'll Be Missing You" can attest, hip-hop has plenty of heart. And that's pretty much the problem with G, too: It tries way too hard to find answers that everyone already knows.

Envisioned as an African-American version of The Great Gatsby, with hip-hop replacing jazz as the soundtrack of Long Island's opulent Hamptons community, G tells its story in strokes way too broad for its own good. Every character is instantly recognizable, from the abusive husband to the heartbroken ex-lover to the conflicted woman who somehow has to choose between the two, and there's little question where each is headed by film's end.

But more problematic is G's refusal to embrace its own origins. Although set squarely in the world of hip-hop, there's precious little of that music on the soundtrack - and boy, is its energy missed (the film was scored by Bill Conti, who won an Academy Award for Rocky). It's as though Saturday Night Fever were released with a soundtrack by Benny Goodman; no offense, but wasn't anyone else available?

Richard T. Jones, locked in a perpetual glower, is G, a wealthy hip-hop mogul living the high life in the Hamptons. But he's far from happy, and even he doesn't know why - until the fateful day she walks back into his life. She is Sky (the formidably gorgeous Chenoa Maxwell), a former flame who left him when their dreams went down divergent paths. When she shows up at one of his parties, the trophy wife of a successful businessman, G is determined to get her back.

That won't be easy, since her husband is the menacingly rich Chip Hightower (Blair Underwood, struggling to extend his character beyond a single dimension). But G has a plan, one that uses Sky's journalist cousin, the opportunistic Tre (The Wire's Andre Royo), as his hapless go-between.

Writer-director Christopher Scott Cherot (Hav Plenty) is simply not up to the challenge the film presents, of making a hip-hop film accessible for people who feel threatened by the hip-hop culture. Unable to embrace the world he's seeking to depict, Cherot is left with a lifeless shell, a movie so preoccupied with being noble that it forgets to be interesting. The problem with G is not that it's unbelievable, it's just boring.

The actors do their best; Maxwell and Royo are particularly appealing. But the script makes them stretch their characters well beyond their breaking points; in one especially ludicrous scene, G and his mates are about to defend a friend's honor by giving his romantic rival a good old-fashioned pistol-whippin', when G's agent reminds everyone that such a display wouldn't be good for their image. They holster their weapons and walk away.

By their own account, the makers of G are fighting the noble fight, trying to make a movie that avoids the easy black stereotypes. But they've done their job too well, proving only that bland, stilted characters are bland, stilted characters, regardless of their skin color.

G

Starring Richard T. Jones, Blair Underwood, Chenoa Maxwell

Directed by Christopher Scott Cherot

Released by Andrew Lauren Productions

Rated R (language, some sexuality and brief violence)

Time 96 minutes

Sun Score ** (two stars)

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