The romantic comedy genre may often considered one made only for women and the men they drag to the theatre with them, but the most analytical, romantic-strategy-based films of the genre (Swingers, Diner, High Fidelity, About a Boy) have ironically been made by, and for, men. The new film Two Can Play That Game is a female, African-American riff on the Strategic Romance Comedy, and it's a winning, charming triumph.
Owing more to the popular dating manual The Rules than to any cinematic tradition (though it would be a lie to say that it doesn't borrow liberally from Sex and the City), Two Can Play That Game is also a female counterpart to the recent spate of male-oriented "buppie" comedies. The movie lives on the charm and beauty of its lead actress Vivica A. Fox, who has finally found a vehicle that suits her considerable talents.
Fox stars as Shante Smith, a young woman with a successful career and an even more successful love life - she's seeing a hot-shot lawyer named Keith (Morris Chestnut) and to the envy of her three friends, she's most successful of all at "keeping her man in line," something the other three can never seem to do. But when Shante catches the boyfriend dancing with another woman at a club, she embarks on a 10-day spree of mind games aimed at inducing guilt, regret, and eventual reconciliation.
This may sound like a bit of a cruel premise, but the actors are so charming that they somehow manage to make it work. And like Sex and the City, a lot of fun lies in watching the different women in their various adventures with their boyfriends. One of the funniest parts is an appearance Eighties pop star Bobby Brown, who plays one of the boyfriends- a man with grotesquely rotten teeth until he is cleaned up by his girlfriend. Another highlight is the performance by Anthony Anderson (one of Jim Carrey's three sons in Me, Myself and Irene) as Keith's friend and councilor.
The film is lushly shot by first-time director Mark Brown, and the production design in the homes, offices, and clubs is especially well-done. Even though the characters may seem like caricatures, we still care.
Combining screwball comedy, racial humor, Sex and the City and The Rules, Two Can Play That Game is an entertaining, heart-warming, and exceptionally good-looking romantic comedy.