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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Two Can Play That Game (2001)

"What is it with men and big bootys?"
- Shante (Vivica A. Fox)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 27, 2001

Stars: Vivica A. Fox
Other Stars: Anthony Anderson, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Tamala Jones, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Mo'Nique
Director: Mark Brown

MPAA Rating: R for language, including sexual dialogue
Run Time: 01h:31m:22s
Release Date: December 26, 2001
UPC: 043396071070
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Ask your average twenty-something female, and she will no doubt be familiar with the concept of "the Rules," a set of relationship instructions that, at least in their most familiar dorm room poster version, dictate that men should be molded into shape by their significant others. Shante (Vivica A. Fox) follows her own set of similar rules, which she uses to offer advice to her friends dealing with relationship troubles. They all look to her for advice; she's a relationship guru.

She feels confident, then, when she begins having troubles of her own, that her trusty "10 Day Plan" will bring her man, Keith (Chestnut), running back to her, begging for forgiveness. But Keith is not as malleable as she expected, and he has his own set of rules to follow. Both struggle to keep the upper hand in the ten-day dispute, only to discover that love might not follow any set of rules.

Two Can Play That Game benefits from sharp direction from first timer Mark Brown, who also wrote the screenplay. He enlivens the film with bright colors, split-screen effects, and occasional quirky MTV editing to sell a joke. And the cast isn't bad either—Fox is a capable leading lady, and Chestnut, though a bit bland, is likeable enough. The supporting cast exists solely for comic relief, and while I found myself enjoying Keith's friend Tony (Anderson), I had problems with scenes featuring Shante's group of devotees (including such familiar TV stars as Mo'Nique and Tamala Jones), as the group felt like a needlessly raunchy rehash of the Sex and the City girls.

In fact, the film owes quite a bit to Sex and the City. It tries to coin "relationship phrases" like "flipping the script," it offers the same interview style vignettes, and, unfortunately, an awful lot of ponderous voice-over and talk to the camera narration from Fox. In fact, it's this device that bogs down the film, and the otherwise breezy 90-minute picture feels sluggish under mounds of rarely witty exposition. The technique works well when used sparingly (see Ferris Bueller), but too much and the movie feels less like a film and more like radio.

Aside from that, however, this is a more or less agreeable romantic comedy. It follows the telegraphed course, and many of the jokes are tired or needlessly obscene, but the cast is likeable overall. If only Shante would shut up and let them act.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar elected to include both a full-frame and a widescreen transfer on the same side of this dual-layered disc. The payoff is rather poor video quality (for a new release), which is all the more annoying considering the 1.85:1 ratio is unlikely to bother black bar haters too much. Anyway, though colors overall look strong, the transfer has a rather orange look in interior scenes, and flesh tones look off. Red tones tend to look overly bright and digitally pixelated. Black level is only fair, and darker scenes show a bit of visible film grain. Aliasing is often apparent in more complex scenes, as is digital artifacting. This won't look too bad on an average, smaller TV, but even on a low-end anamorphic set, the problems are obvious.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Two Can Play That Game gets a fairly standard comedy sound mix. The sound is very front-heavy, with dialogue nicely anchored in the center channel and the front mains handling the score (the R&B heavy-track uses the expanded soundfield pretty well). Surrounds are basically silent, as expected, but the mix suits the film just fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Thai, Korean with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Baby Boy, The Brothers
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Mark Brown
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. KeKe Wyatt featuring Avant music video, Nothing in This World
Extras Review: Though not billed as a special edition, Two Can Play That Game includes quite a few features. The commentary from first-time director Mark Brown is decent—he's talkative and funny, and there are few gaps in his speech.

Three featurettes offer the requisite PR fluff. How to Survive the Battle of the Sexes is the typical HBO making-of, full of behind-the-scenes clips and actor interviews. Vivica A. Fox Makes Her Move covers Fox's reaction to her first starring role. First Time at Bat focuses on screenwriter Mark Brown, directing for the first time. All three are of the "watch once, if at all" variety, and are mostly promotional.

Rounding out the disc are trailers for Two Can Play That Game, Baby Boy, and The Brothers, along with a fairly elaborate music video for the song Nothing in This World that has nothing at all to do with the film.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Though overly familiar, labored with near-constant voiceover, and only sporadically amusing, Two Can Play That Game is probably still worth a rental. It's got an attractive, likeable cast, a few witty exchanges of dialogue, and snappy direction from Mark Brown. The DVD has some nice features, but the inclusion of both a full-frame and a widescreen transfer on the same DVD-9 proves detrimental to the video quality.


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