Widescreen Review - 05/01/2006
"[T]he music is well-mixed."
R&B star Usher makes an assured screen debut in this mix of mob movie and romantic comedy. Chazz Palminenteri co-stars as the friendly don who recruits family friend Darrell (Usher) to play bodyguard for his daughter, Dolly (Emmanuelle Chiriqi). She and Darrell have been friends since they were kids, but the seven years since they last saw each other have changed things. She's grown into a headstrong young law student with a yen for yoga and a smug yuppie boyfriend (Geoff Stults); he's grown into an ultra-smooth chick magnet with dreams of starting his own record company. They're destined for each other, but there's not only the racial issue in their way--someone's trying to take over the family business via treachery and bullets, and Darrell's right in the thick of things. When the interracial romance isn't heating up the screen, there's plenty of raucous comedy supplied by Anthony Fazio as Dolly's pseudo-gangsta younger brother, Kevin Hart as Darrell's loudmouthed co-DJ, and a bulldog with an unfortunate digestion problem. Director Ron Underwood takes his time going around the more edgy turns in the script, giving the actors room to stretch out and get comfortable in their characters and surroundings, and helping the film transcend its more formulaic elements (it's an obvious nod to the 1992 Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner chestnut, THE BODYGUARD). Best of all, Usher proves his game extends to the big screen, where he displays plenty of debonair warmth and easygoing charm.