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Movie Review

Dre and Sidney discovered hip-hop on July 18, 1984. As childhood friends they reveled in its newness, its "purity" and its power. It literally cemented their lives together. The years fly by and even though their careers eventually take them to opposite coasts, two things remain constant: their love for each other and their love for music. Sid becomes an editor at a hip-hop magazine, is esteemed as an excellent music critic, and writes a book—what she calls her love letter to hip-hop. Dre becomes a music executive for Millennium Records.

Fifteen years after their musical awakening, Dre and Sid joyously reunite in New York (think When Harry Met Sally). But their growing feelings for each other don’t stop Dre from suddenly marrying Reese, leaving a jealous Sid to drift into a serious relationship with NBA star Kelby Dawson. As the story meanders along, Sid and Dre must deal with the personal and professional changes in their lives—and figure out exactly where they fit with each other.

positive elements: Dre and Sid encourage each other, support each other and genuinely treasure their relationship. Sid tells Dre to put more confidence in himself when he faces tough life decisions. Dre finds little fulfillment chasing money as a music executive and when he feels his personal integrity and the integrity of hip-hop are being compromised, he is determined to do something about it. Sid ridicules the superficial ways men look at women. Dre exhibits remarkable perseverance in trying to start a music label.

spiritual content: Sid wears a gold cross pendant throughout the movie. Dre and Reese have a traditional wedding ceremony presided over by a minister. But one line from a song states, "I worship at the temple of hip-hop."

sexual content: Sid’s cousin Francine repeatedly jokes that Sid owns a vibrator. Sid maintains that it’s merely a massager. Friends giggle about the leather lingerie Reese is given at her wedding shower. Reese quips that it will look good with her whip. Dre brags that Reese "is a freak in the bedroom." Numerous make-out scenes include one in which Sid and Dre kiss and grope the night before Dre’s wedding to Reese. Sid talks about strippers being at the bachelor party. Dre and Reese are seen making out on the kitchen table. Advising her on how to look more attractive, one of Sid’s friends tells her that she needs to "dangle" (the next scene shows Sid in a tight red dress with a plunging neckline). Sid’s first date with Kelby includes a passionate kiss and culminates with Sid saying, "Let’s have sex now." Kelby replies, "Lets." Dre catches Reese having dinner with a man from her gym (an extramarital affair is implied). Sexual innuendo (some of it homosexual), tight spandex and low-cut dresses are the rule rather than the exception. [Spoiler Warning] Sid and Dre eventually sleep together (audiences see a kiss and a fade). Sid feels guilty about their activity and says, "I’m getting married, you’re still married, and we just got busy." But the deed is done, and she proceeds to joke that it was the most "amazing and exhilarating five minutes" she ever had.

crude or profane language: Women are often referred to as "hos" or "b--ches." Other trouble spots include one use of the f-word, a dozen s-words, and nearly 40 milder profanities and crude expressions. The n-word is used playfully one time. God and Jesus’ names are abused several times. Various hip-hop tunes yield an abundance of background profanity.

drug and alcohol content: Champagne and martinis are served at a party. Several scenes take place in bars. Moviegoers discover that Sid’s favorite drink is a Perfect 10, and that Dre prefers Kettle One martinis. New Year’s Eve is celebrated at Sid’s apartment and just about everyone gets drunk by night’s end. Chris, a rapper on Dre’s new label, is seen with a bottle of beer, and he smokes cigarettes in just about every scene he’s in. He also talks and acts like he is high most of the time, prompting Dre to say, "You smoke too much grass, man."

other negative elements: Dre and Sid’s relationship is strong and committed, but also quite inappropriate after Dre gets married. Dre often shares his pains and problems with Sid before he tells his wife. And it’s evident that Sid likes it that way, never content to play second fiddle to Reese. Marriage itself is presented as something of a frivolous union, entered into with little thought and even less commitment (neither Dre nor Reese remain faithful). Dre’s actions indicate that he feels compelled to cheat on Reese because she cheated on him first. Even when Reese approaches him (after they are separated) and asks if they can try to work their marriage out, Dre refuses, concluding that they don’t have enough of what it takes to make it last. While hip-hop as a style of music emulates creativity, personality and energy, much of what it conveys lyrically—violent behavior, degradation of women, glorification of sex, gratuitous profanity—defies godly and even social values.

conclusion: Superfluous conversations about hip-hop do not make this a movie about hip-hop. It’s merely rope from which this mediocre love story hangs itself. Brown Sugar tells the tale of best friends discovering their true feelings for each other by reminiscing about their favorite hip-hop artists and songs, but it telegraphs its intent so early that even occasional moviegoers will be able to quickly divine its conclusion. The chemistry between Dre and Sid is believable, but to be together, a marriage must be destroyed. Clearly, in Brown Sugar, following one’s heart supercedes living up to one’s vows, and that leaves a taste more like unsweetened chocolate and black pepper than sweet molasses and brown sugar.

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Taye Diggs as Dre Ellis; Sanaa Lathan as Sidney Shaw; Nicole Ari Parker as Reese; Mos Def as Chris; Queen Latifa as Francine; Boris Kodjoe as Kelby Dawson


Rick Famuyiwa ( )


Fox Searchlight



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On Video

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Megan Joyner

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