Universal Studios Home Video presents
Deliver Us from Eva (2003)
Ray: You don't need to be so nasty.
Eva: Oh, there is definitely a need for me to get nasty. My job is serious. It is not a hobby. Well, guess what, meat-boy? I'm sure my job pays more than yours does. So in my eyes, the eyes of society and the IRS that makes me bigger and better than you. So why don't you think about that the next time you're out doing the complex work of toting around a pig's ass!- LL Cool J, Gabrielle Union
Stars: LL Cool J, Gabrielle Union, Duane Martin, Essence Atkins, Robinne Lee, Meagan Good, Mel Jackson, Dartanyan Edmonds
Director: Gary Hardwick
MPAA Rating: R for (sex-related dialogue)
Run Time: 01h:45m:28s
Release Date: 2003-06-17
Genre: romantic comedy
DVD ReviewDespite its clever title, Deliver Us From Eva more closely resembles Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew than The Lord's Prayer. Yet it still follows three desperate male friends (Duane Martin, Mel Jackson and Dartanyan Edmonds) as they hope and pray for a heavenly savior to rid them of the meddlesome, manipulative, feisty, at times downright nasty, yet oh-so-beautiful Eva Dandrige (Gabrielle Union). You see, Eva loves her three younger sisters and has ruled their roost like a mother hen since their parents' death years ago, putting her own dreams on hold while she micromanages her siblings' lives. Kareenah (Essence Atkins), Jacqui (Meagan Good), and Bethany (Robinne Lee) appreciate the advice and strive to emulate Eva's professional and personal success. Their men, however, have had enough. They won't stand for any more interference, brainwashing, or ball-busting. Eva, they say, must go.
But how? Running her out of town isn't an option, because Eva loves her job as a dragon lady health inspector far too much. But what if they found a guy who'd take her out on the town and hopefully out of circulation? Once Eva's involved in her own relationship, the men reason, maybe she'll stop sticking her nose in theirs. Yet does any man possess tough enough gonads to tango with this African-American spitfire? At a local bar, the triumvirate spies the smooth-talking Ray Adams (LL Cool J) as he slips out of a romantic triangle like a fried egg on Teflon. They engage the hunky chap in conversation and offer him $5000 to date, distract, and hopefully deprogram the lovely Eva. At first, Ray hesitates, but soon begins to view Eva as the ultimate feather in his Casanova cap. He accepts the challenge.
Let the games begin.
Now, Gary Hardwick's film could never be termed a romantic comedy if Ray didn't succeed in melting the robotic ice maiden and transforming Eva into a flesh-and-blood female. It's also a no-brainer that Ray's muscles will turn to Jell-o when Eva's beauty casts its spell, and that, at some point, Eva will discover the devious plot against her. All such story developments fall well within the genre's parameters—and that's part of the film's problem. While Deliver Us From Eva often succeeds with smart dialogue, amusing situations, and palpable sex appeal, it ultimately fails to offer us anything fresh or innovative.
Except one thing. What the film does do, quite admirably, is paint a more balanced portrait of black America by taking its story out of the 'hood, transplanting it to a more mainstream suburban environment and raising its characters' economic status. Deliver Us From Eva is by no means a "black" comedy, unless one uses the adjective to describe the three friends' nefarious plot. The film could just as easily have been played by a white cast without changing a single line of dialogue. We even discover through an interview with Hardwick (included within the disc's special features) that the original script was not intended for an all-black cast. Would it have worked as well—or better—with white faces speaking the lines? Probably not. Which means mediocre material is devoid of racial prejudice.
I'd be lying if I didn't say I was struck by the affluence of the black characters at first. Unfortunately, we're not used to seeing so many educated, successful, professional African-Americans on screen at the same time. But very quickly, the color issue vanishes and it's easy to accept the characters at face value. The fact that the film itself rarely rises above the mundane is too bad, because it squanders this golden opportunity to erase bogus labels. Many consumers will take a look at the film's cover art and classify it as a "black romantic comedy" instead of simply a "romantic comedy," and leave it on the shelf—and that's a shame.
Hardwick does his best with the material, and his slick, seamless style keeps the action rolling and sustains viewer interest. The plot's predictability, however, and hard-to-swallow climax drag the film down. We've seen this type of story far too often—just not with a black cast. LL Cool J (saddled here with the much more cumbersome billing of James Todd Smith aka LL Cool J) cuts loose his rap roots and files a lively, funny, sexy portrayal of the man-in-the-middle, torn between a lucrative financial agreement, his blossoming affection for Eva, and his own overblown ego. As his romantic adversary, Union hits all the right buttons. At times, she overplays her rage for comic effect, but it makes her ultimate softening that much more seductive. The supporting cast earns similar kudos for their spirited, natural performances.
Despite its clichés, Deliver Us From Eva entertains with its sassy sexual sparring, warm heart, winning performances and colorblind attitude. That sounds like an enthusiastic recommendation, but when all is said and done, Hardwick's film still can't distinguish itself from other middling efforts in its genre. Delivering us from Eva may not have been easy, but the real challenge would have been writing and producing a truly original romantic comedy.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Smooth, crisp and lush, the anamorphic widescreen presentation of Deliver Us From Eva possesses no discernible faults. Colors are vibrant and nicely saturated, fleshtones remain true, and the image enjoys a depth and warmth that draws the viewer into the film. Very few surface defects could be detected on this clean, bright print that's always a pleasure to watch. A great overall effort from Universal.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio buffs will appreciate the inclusion of both DTS and DD 5.1 tracks—quite a surprise for a dialogue-heavy romantic comedy. While both options offer full, multi-dimensional sound, DTS once again gets the nod for its increased clarity of tone, rich presence and heightened surround details. The increased volume level on the DTS track can slightly overwhelm at times, but the nuances gained outweigh any minor annoyances. The DD 5.1 track is a touch flatter and definitely more muted, but still provides a satisfying surround experience. No losers in this contest.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Gary Hardwick
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Layers Switch: 00h:50m:18s
- Music videos
Delivering Eva: Behind the Scenes of Deliver Us From Eva is basically a cookie-cutter "making of" featurette, but still provides a few insights into the production process, along with some painless interview segments. Hardwick discusses his conscious decision to "change people's perception of black films" by depicting more upscale characters in a mainstream environment, while LL Cool J appreciates the change-of-pace role and opportunity to portray the romantic lead. Other cast members talk about Hardwick's confidence and vision, and the feeling of camaraderie on the set. Although this featurette could be easily classified as pure puff, the viewer learns more about the film during its 11 minutes than we do in Hardwick's 105-minute commentary track.
Eight deleted scenes, some of which are quite lengthy, fill in a few story gaps or provide additional humor and character delineation, but none seem essential to the film. Unfortunately, no commentary option is available, so we can't hear the reasoning behind the cuts. (Since Hardwick recorded a commentary track for the main feature, it seems strange he wasn't asked to discuss these deleted scenes.) Even more frustrating, the scenes are strung together in a single 9-minute thread, making it difficult to navigate between them.
Finally, two entertaining music videos, LL Cool J's Paradise, an upbeat rap tune in which Gabrielle Union appears, and This Very Moment, the romantic ballad sung over the end credits by K-Ci and JoJo, round out the disc's special features.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsA cozy romantic comedy, Deliver Us From Eva is easy to snuggle up to on a cold winter's night. Unfortunately, this hip, often lively battle of the sexes loses steam halfway through and coasts to the finish line on the fumes of genre clichés. Universal offers a great-looking transfer, excellent audio and decent extras, but this date flick still only rates a one-night stand, rather than a long-term commitment.
David Krauss 2003-12-11