Well, we recently brought back PA after a hiatus. Why not bring back the series that chronicles some of the worst mad cow-infested bovine dung Hollywood (and sometimes wrestling) has to offer. It is I, your furry neighborhood pal Speed on the Beat back with the first WIRTB in what seems like years. Young Midoriya is, once again, taking the reins to talk turkey about the wackiest and wackest ish I’ve seen over my thirty years.
Today, we’re going to talk about one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen—and one of the worst featuring a Black musical artist. Yes, it’s worse than Who’s Your Caddy? and Soul Plane put together. At least those movies knew they were stupid and tried to play within the realms of their stupidity to get some cheap laughs. They’re like Tyler Perry movies, in the sense that they, while formulaic as all hell and appealing to the lowest of the lowest common denominators, they actually have a crap about their art.
Usher’s 2005 epic, In The Mix, however, doesn’t do this.
A “movie,” in the loosest sense of the term, In The Mix is pretty much an excuse for Usher to be shirtless and save a pretty white (Moroccan and Israeli playing Italian, if we’re being technical) woman like an action star…but with the height of, oh, I don’t know, Speed on the Beat. Seeing Usher hold a (prop) gun is hilarious, but then hearing him spout off one-liners while doing it is downright absurd.
Now, The Rock taught us that being shirtless and remotely charming in a movie is not enough. If it were, Baywatch would’ve done a lot better in its wannabe 21 Jump Street approach and The Rundown would’ve been the greatest buddy chase movie of all-time. That’s why Ballers works. Dwayne Johnson grew and realized that he needed to emote better (and choose better roles with creative writers). And yes, I know that Baywatch took place in the same timeframe as Johnson’s work on Ballers.
But not only is Usher not believable as an action star in his own movie, but we wasted some decent actors to get this turd. You’d think that Chazz Palminteri would be above playing Stereotypical Mob Boss Number 2005 in 2005. Nope. Character actors gotta character act and we get Palminteri giving his best Vito Corleone, which ends up having him look more like Fredo by the end of it all.
So, the plot is kind of like The Bodyguard meets The Godfather Part III with all the subtlety of an Afterschool Special. That is, of course, if Kevin Costner was replaced by a DJ who works for the mobsters and Whitney Houston was played by Sloan from Entourage.
As mentioned, the movie is an excuse for Usher to be shirtless and doing things that Usher isn’t very good at (like acting tough). See, I like my Usher singing love songs and dancing with the best of them, not fake DJing and being a problem solver with a problem solver. I don’t buy Usher protecting ol’ girl because he couldn’t even protect his…own legacy from getting tarnished by this movie. You probably expected a sex joke of some sort there, I know.
Plus, he’s like my height. Who the hell is going to take him seriously as a bodyguard? There’s suspension of belief, and then there’s asking too much of your audience. On top of this, Usher—I mean Darnell—is ultimately tasked with ending a gang war between Chazz Palminteri’s mobsters and another group of stereotypes because…why the eff not? And, to make matters even more off-the-wall, there is a Kevin Hart sighting as “Busta.” Kevin Hart, poor career choices, and bad Black cinema in the 2000s go hand-in-hand to the point if you told me that he was in a Madea movie in the background, I wouldn’t doubt it. But, if he and Anthony Anderson could escape the craziness and elevate their careers, surely Usher and company could make this a so-bad-it’s-good flick…right?
Nope. It’s not funny, not even ironically so. It’s uneven, going from trying-to-tug-at-your-heartstrings melodrama to slapstick to “we’re hip” at a breakneck pace. Its pacing rivals The Room in its cluster-skullhumping, sorry for the mental image. The jokes hit the lowest-hanging fruit to the point that a nutshot with cuckoo clock sound effects wouldn’t be that out of place. And, while I’ve ragged in Usher being unbelievably unconvincing in the starring role, his supporting cast falls into one of two categories: stereotype or embarrassing stereotype. Who writes this crap and thinks “oh yeah, this is gonna our butts in seats?”
I mean, I know that the director, Ron Underwood, was trying to escape the stink of Pluto Nash (he doesn’t do himself any favors with this one) and the screenwriter, Jacqueline Zambrano, seemingly only came close to Black people when she wrote for James Earl Jones’ shor-tlived legal drama (thank you, IMDB), but sheesh.
What makes matters worse is that people try to forget that this movie exists. Usually that’d be a good thing, but no. I want Usher to atone for his sin of unleashing this movie onto us. Even his most-devout fans couldn’t save this one from bombing. Released over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2005, when Usher’s star was still around its brightest (“Yeah” was still getting placed in random movies), the movie brought in about $10M. I guess that it still brought in more than Who’s Your Caddy?, so there’s a moral victory to be had somewhere, I think. Nevertheless, it was horrible all around.
If you really want to subject yourself to this comedy torture porn, it’s on Amazon via the Brown Sugar add-on. But, if I were you, I wouldn’t subject myself to this. Ever.