In the Mix

Rated: PG-13
Director: Ron Underwood
Starring: Usher, Chazz Palminteri, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Robert Davi, Anthony Fazio
Genre: Personality Vehicle

1 star(s)

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

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In The Mix (2005)
movie review by Todd Jorgenson, Denton Record Chronicle (TX)

Rating: ROTTEN

It's clearly conceived solely as a star vehicle for the ubiquitous Usher and his washboard abs, with plot coherence and originality coming in somewhere lower in the pecking order.
In the Mix
Distributor: Lions Gate
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 97 minutes


By Todd Jorgenson
Film Critic

There's a built-in audience for In the Mix, consisting of fans of the immensely popular R&B singer Usher, which is probably about all the attention this uninspired romance will get.

It's clearly conceived solely as a star vehicle for the ubiquitous Usher and his washboard abs, with plot coherence and originality coming in somewhere lower in the pecking order.

It's a Romeo and Juliet-style story about Darrell (Usher), a deejay at a New York hip-hop club, who becomes an unlikely hero when he jumps in front of a bullet intended for a mobster (Chazz Palminteri) at a party.

As a reward, he's hired as a bodyguard for the mobster's airheaded daughter (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who just happens to be tired of her father trying to control her life. So the two strike up a romance behind dad's back, unwittingly thrusting themselves into the middle of a Mafia revenge plot.

The entire story basically revolves around a quick series of plot contrivances, with leaden attempts to inject forced and stale jokes for comic relief. The flat screenplay fails to generate much suspense or surprise with a story that never veers from the predictable.

In his first romantic lead (and the first role in which he's not billed under his full name, Usher Raymond), Usher showcases an appealing screen presence but not much range. And he certainly never manages much chemistry with the bland Chriqui (Wrong Turn).

Even veterans such as Palminteri can't energize this dud, which wastes the talents of its supporting cast with thinly sketched characters, and certainly won't help to turn around the career of director Ron Underwood (City Slickers).

Usher's fans will probably be more forgiving of the film's blatant flaws than the majority of moviegoers who'll tire of this trite and formulaic mess and hope the star keeps his day job.

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If you asked a gently reared 11-year-old to come up with a movie about gangsters and hip-hop musicians, the result might be something like this PG-13-rated showcase for tween-friendly R&B sensation Usher Raymond. Up-and-coming DJ Darrell (Usher) is an orphan whose late father's employer, New Jersey Mafioso Frank Pacelli (Chazz Palminteri), looked out for him and bankrolled his college education. Darrell grew up with Frank's kids, wannabe brother Frank Jr. (Anthony Fazio) and mafia princess Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who's a year away from becoming a hotshot lawyer — not the mob kind, her doting dad assures his underworld pals — so he's is happy to spin discs for Dolly's surprise welcome home party at Frank's swanky ristorante. Unfortunately, the happy get-together is disrupted by a drive-by shooting, and Darrell takes a bullet for Mr. P. — not to worry, it's just a flesh wound, but he does have to convalesce at the Pacelli mansion. So when rebellious Dolly, bridling at her father's insistence that a bodyguard accompany her everywhere until he gets to the bottom of the attempted hit, persuades Frank to agree that she can choose anyone in the house as her designated watcher, she chooses Darrell. Naturally, they fall in love, despite such impediments as her white-bread fiancιe (Geoff Stults) and the psychotically jealous Pacelli-family flunky (Matt Gerald) who doesn't hold with interracial consorting. There are guns but no blood, making out but no nudity, club scenes but no sequences in which Usher sings, though he does doff his shirt — but not his jeans — before diving into the Pacelli's pool. There's a bratty little girl who advises Darrell on his love life and tells Dolly that "sistahs gotta stick together," a comic-relief best friend named Busta (Kevin Hart), a flatulent bulldog and a ridiculous "you say buttered grits/I say polenta" riff on the similarities between soul food and Italian cooking. That the 27-year-old Usher isn't much of an actor is no surprise, but he's strikingly uncharismatic for someone who's been in the spotlight since he was six. — Maitland McDonagh



Country of Origin:
U.S.
Genre:
Comedy; Crime; Romance
Color or b/w:
Color
Production Co(s).:
Lions Gate Films Inc.; Releve Entertainment; Triumphant Pictures
Released By:
Lions Gate Releasing
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Parental Rating:
Cautionary; some scenes objectionable
Running Time:
100




Usher Raymond (credited as Usher)
Darrell
Chazz Palminteri
Frank Pacelli
Emmanuelle Chriqui
Dolly Pacelli
Anthony Fazio
Frank Pacelli Jr.
Robert Davi
Fish
Matt Gerald
Jackie
Robert Costanzo
Fat Tony
Geoff Stults
Chad
K.D, Aubert
Cherise
Kevin Hart
Busta
Isis Faust
Lexi
Nick Mancuso
Salvatore
Chris Tardio
Angelo
Deezer D.
Jojo
Page Kennedy
Twizzie
Jennifer Echols
Big Momma
Robert Gallo
Dr. Rizzoli
Dwight Hicks
Bouncer
Meiko
Hottie
Erin Cardillo
Rachelle
Lana Underwood
Carly
Misti Traya
Maya
Kristen Renton
Skye
Dominic Testa
Frank's Guest
Lucille Oliver
LaShonda
Kellie Williams
Cami
Mat Gifford
Aqua Receptionist
Alfred 'AJ' Jackson
Street Performer
Eldon 'Emaze' Baizar
Street Performer
Labyron 'Chaos' Walton
Street Performer
Gary 'G1000' Randolph
Street Performer
John David Conti
Gino
Griffin Della Verson
Griffin--Wedding Guest

Producer
John Dellaversion
Exec. Producer
Holly Davis-Carter
Michael Paseornek
Usher
Co-Producer
Chanel Capra
Director
Ron Underwood
Writer
Jacqueline Zambrano (based on a story by Chanel Capra, Cara Dellaversion, Brian Rubenstein)
Source
Chanel Capra
Cara Dellaversion
Brian Rubenstein
Editor
Don Brochu
Musical Composer
Aaron Zigman
Production Designer
Cynthia Charette
Set Decorator
Ron V. Franco
Casting
Barbara Fiorentino
Rebecca Mangieri
Sound
Richard Bryce Goodman (mixer)
Special Effects
Lou Carlucci
Mike Uguccioni (visual effects)
Costumes
Ha Nguyen
Make Up
Debbie Zoller
Stunts
Steve Davison
Cinematographer
Clark Math

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In the Mix (2 out of 5 stars)
Usher could be a movie star, but first he'll need a movie

Roger Moore | Sentinel Movie Critic
Posted November 25, 2005
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PHOTOS
Predictable and forgettable
Predictable and forgettable (SAEED ADYANI/LIONS GATE FILMS)
Nov 25, 2005

MORE INFO

'In the Mix'

Cast: Usher Raymond, Chazz Palminteri, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Robert Davi.

Director: Ron Underwood.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Industry rating: PG-13, for sexual content, violence, language.

Video
'In the Mix' Trailer
'In the Mix' Trailer

RELATED STORIES
Usher bumps film in his mix
Nov 25, 2005


The plan must have been to showcase singer-turned-actor Usher Raymond in a sexy little romantic melodrama with a dash of thrills. With a competent director in Ron (City Slickers) Underwood, a cast filled with every veteran Italian-American actor who doesn't mind playing mob stereotypes, and a yummy co-star, it has "can't miss" written into it.

But the best-laid plans of Hollywood and Usher Inc. got lost In the Mix. Rarely has a movie this harmless turned this tone-deaf in its last reel.

Usher stars as Darrell, the hottest club DJ in Jersey. He has record-label dreams and a funny homeboy pal (Kevin Hart) who shares the workload. And he's a player.

Then, he deejays a party for old family friends. And when he takes a bullet intended for the patriarch (Chazz Palminteri) and his daughter (Emmanuelle Chriqui), he finds himself with a new responsibility. He's the bodyguard to the patriarch's daughter.

Because this guy isn't just Daddy, he's the don. And what the don's law-student hottie of a daughter wants, she gets.

Darrell is caught in the middle of what could be a mob war. And daughter Dolly is warm for his form. Things could get messy.

Usher has a winning smile and an ease with the camera that suggest that he could have a movie career, if he spends the money to find the right scripts. Light comedy would seem his forte, not badda-bing, badda-boom, body-in-the-trunk trauma drama.

Things that click: a card game involving Darrell's pals; the Italian-American son hooked on B-boy slang; one-liners about brown sugar; and Darrell's ladies' man patter: "No Miss Right. It's kinda been a few Miss Right Nows."

Darkly exotic Chriqui has a little of that Demi Moore-back-in-the-day thing going on. And the benefits of casting to type are that we don't have to imagine Palminteri, Robert Davi or the others as tough guys, or made men. Thirty other movies have done that work for us.

But just as sure as she says "You pick a place to eat," you know he's taking the Italian to some place with fried chicken and a woman named Big Momma who's going to say, "Awww, give Big Momma a squeeze." Hit men in Cadillac Escalades, too many black shirts and black leather sports coats -- it's all trite and true.

Usher, if he's going to strike while the music is still selling, is going to have to come up with a better mix than this. A smile, a kiss and a move or two on the dance floor aren't enough, capisce?

Rmoore@Orlandosentinel.Com
Reviewing key:

***** excellent, **** good, *** average, ** poor, * awful

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In The Mix (2005)
movie review by Brian Orndorf, FilmJerk.com

Rating: ROTTEN (F)

The depths of stupidity that Mix plunges to are alarming, even for something this intentionally insignificant.
Darrell (Usher) is a struggling DJ looking for his big break. Taking a gig for mob family, Darrell reconnects with an old friend, Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui, the NSync film, "On the Line"), and her father, mob boss Frank (Chazz Palminteri). When the evening goes violently wrong, and Darrell ends up taking a bullet intended for Frank, the family welcomes the young man as one of their own. Given an assignment to protect Dolly everywhere she goes, Darrell finds himself falling for the girl, infuriating the family in the process.

Usher, the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning R&B singer, has toyed with the silver screen for the last few years, taking supporting roles here and there in forgettable pictures ("Light it Up," "Texas Rangers"). Now, with "In the Mix," the superstar has a forgettable picture he can call his own.

Admittedly, "In the Mix" is made for teenage girls. The film isn't challenging in the least, and only appears to be a vehicle for Usher to take off his shirt and surround himself with co-stars who fawn over him like he was made of ice cream cake. I don't think anyone is expecting Usher to burn up the screen with a slab of raging cinema, but the depths of stupidity that "Mix" plunges to are alarming, even for something this intentionally insignificant. Even Elvis's lousy films had a certain pop culture sense of charm. "In the Mix" is just punishing.

I guess when you make what most industry watchers call the biggest bomb in movie history ("The Adventures of Pluto Nash"), Usher stars to look good to you, which explains why Ron Underwood took the directing gig here. Underwood ("Tremors," "City Slickers") isn't a reliable filmmaker, but he's way above this mess, and you can almost smell his straight-to-video panic in the theater air.

The screenplay by Jacqueline Zambrano, a television veteran, is based entirely on stereotypes. Opening with obvious mafia figures and dim-witted clubgoers, the film quickly begins to rely on the stupidity of the target demo to ignore the offensive material being handed to them. Zambrano broadly arranges the Italian (they only eat pasta and are involved with organized crime) and African-American (they all carry weapons and eat fatty foods) characters, crescendoing with her greatest offense: the suburban white kid who acts hip-hop. There's some truly inexcusable writing in "Mix," made even worse by Underwood's willingness to go along with it and actors who should be ashamed of themselves for participating.

But who cares about the rest of the film? This is Usher's show, and the million-dollar question is: can he act? The answer is no, at least not in a starring role. I can see the singer's specific, dimpled charms going a long way to fog this ghastly movie for many, but any scene that puts him to the dramatic test demonstrates harshly that Usher should stick to the music business. Usher is incapable of drumming up chemistry with Chriqui, and any moments of "palling" around with his co-stars looks stiff and unrehearsed. "In the Mix" matches Usher in the amateur department, and he should thank his lucky stars the film itself is often worse than his acting.

My Rating: F

Array

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In the Mix
U.S. Release Date: 11/23/2005
[star]

If "In the Mix" doesn't convince you that Usher is the sexiest man in recorded history, it won't be for lack of trying. Less a movie than it is a commercial for the R&B star's well-toned body and dimpled baby face, "Mix" misses no opportunity to remind viewers that Usher is a heavy-duty hunk.

Much of the dialogue consists of testimonials to his glorious physique, and a large portion of Usher's performance involves taking off his shirt or striking poses in GQ-approved suits. The story -- in which he plays Darrell Williams, a club DJ who is pressed into service as a bodyguard for Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui) after he saves the life of her dad (Chazz Palminteri), a mob boss -- never gets in the way of the flood of endorsements that seem to pour in from all sides.

Introducing Darrell to a classmate, Dolly calls him "a friend of the family that I got stuck with." "I wouldn't mind getting stuck with that!" the classmate replies.

Later, Dolly takes Darrell to a restaurant to meet a few of her friends, all of whom instantly swoon over him. "Why don't you have a bite of my pot sticker?" one of them asks, offering up the appetizer in the most provocative way she can.

Even men are susceptible to Darrell's charms. When Dolly orders a deluxe package for Darrell at a day spa, the guy behind the counter can't resist ogling him and murmuring, "Some package!"

If you don't buy into the idea that Usher is the foxiest brother ever to set foot on the screen, you are probably not the target audience for "Mix," since it has little else to offer except sizable servings of beefcake. The plot is absurd, the love story feeble and unconvincing and the jokes are obvious, sometimes even borderline-offensive.

"Mix" thinks it's daring to pair up Darrell and Dolly in an interracial romance. Sure it is -- if we all woke up this morning in 1965. But there isn't a single genuine spark between Usher and Chriqui, who looks like a more modest version of Jennifer Love Hewitt and reads her lines in a near-screechy little-girlish voice. Usher at least seems reasonably comfortable onscreen; Chriqui always looks as if she's about to be given the third degree by some particularly unfriendly cops.

Neither actor is given a bit of help by Ron Underwood's atrocious direction or some of the most awkward camerawork this side of a student film festival. When Darrell and Dolly finally drop their guards and get out on the dancefloor, we're shown only their heads and shoulders; they could be treading water, for all we know. Similarly, when they begin making out, the camera weaves to one side to treat us to close-ups of Darrell's ear (so tantalizing!) and one of his cheekbones (straight from Heaven!).

Palminteri, who goes through his paces with minimal energy or commitment, is at least spared embarrassment. The same isn't true of the unfortunate young Isis Faust, who plays Darrell's smart-mouthed pre-teen neighbor, who makes it her business to keep tabs on his love life. "You two done the nasty?" she asks an understandably startled Dolly.

Perhaps not, but they've certainly done something nasty. And that something is called "In the Mix."

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Usually Usher Raymonds performance is at least decent... this movie really was horrible... MAN did it suc... dont see this one... i mean it!