STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
Deleted scenes                                    

The Pitch

Unfortunately this doesn’t refer to Vivica doing a menage…

The Humans

Vivica A. Fox, Jason George, Jazsmin Lewis, Tony Rock, Terri Vaughn, Kellita Smith.

“Heyyyy Fifty, does this church gives you any ideas?  Call me…”

The Nutshell

Vivica (is) A. Fox is back as relationship expert Shante Smith from the 2001 film Two Can Play That Game.  This time, she’s relocated from LA to Atlanta to open up her own business of helping women get what they want from their men.  Whereas in Two Shante was running her game for her own benefit, this time she’s seeking to help Tiffany (Lewis) get what she wants out of her boyfriend, Byron (George), who has just won a new job on an Apprentice-style reality show titled “The Trainee”.  Tiffany happened to catch Byron in a compromising position (though not of his doing) with a sexy executive from the TV show.  Now she’s seeking Shante’s help in making Byron jump through every hoop in the ATL to bend him to her whim.  But with Byron getting his own advice from his best friend, Gizzard (Rock), the mind games are in full swing as both Tiffany and Byron square off in a deathmatch of love with Shante refereeing.  

“So basically Vivica said that I have to marry you, get a good job, I can’t ever see my friends and I have to cater to your every need?”
“Basically, yes.”
“But I’m still gonna get some right?”
“Only when I feel you’re deserving, which won’t be often.”
“But I’m still gonna get some occasionally, right?”
“If I’m in the mood, which will be less than occasionally.”
“But I’m gonna get some once in a long while, right?”
“Once in a very long while…maybe.”
“Cool, sounds good to me….”

The Lowdown

I’d have to say that Three Can Play That Game, though a bit way too by-the-numbers in terms of black relationship movies, is actually quite a bit better than I would have at first given it credit for.  This is a DTD sequel to the theatrical Two, which is instantly apparent by the drop off in name actors from the first movie to this one.  Two was sporting stars such as Fox, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Anderson, Mo’Nique and Bobby Brown to name just a few.  Three has only Fox returning, with Tony Rock the only other name that might ring a bell or two.  But that’s not to say that that makes for a bad movie.  I’ve worked in independent black cinema and if you’ve seen the dreck that’s churned out on a regular basis in that field – with either gangsta, ghetto and / or rapper caricatures dominating in hackneyed and just plain badly-written scripts – then you’ll know that Three is head and shoulders above the vast majority of them when you see it.

Hell, she’s convinced me.  I’m going to go out and register right now.

Three benefits from both a mostly winning screenplay written by the writer / director of Two, Mark Brown, and some likeable performances from stars George, Lewis and to a somewhat lesser degree, Rock.  Whereas Fox had to carry the emotional load in Two as she dealt with her own relationship game with co-star Chestnut, she gets to step back this time and arbitrate the narrative in a Dr. Phil-styled role for George and Lewis.  Shante is the interested third-party, navigating Tiffany through her vaunted five-step process to basically turn strong black men into pussies.  She also steers the audience through the machinations as well.  Mark Brown crafts the five-step process so that it’s not altogether obvious, and Shante and Tiffany work it to perfection, frequently turning Byron into a frazzled mass of blue-balled angst.

Three manages to put some fairly humorous spins on ground that’s been tread upon time and again, particularly by its predecessor.  Actually the premise is a little worn: women want to domesticate their men, men want to wear the pants, etc.  But it’s a pretty good credit to Brown and the others that they can make it entertaining.  Personally, I know I was ready to tell Byron to dump that scheming bitch Tiffany, so I guess the movie was doing its job.  Strangely though, my wife didn’t see the situation quite that way.

“I just love your work, Mr. Rock.”
“Please, call me Chris…”

Three Can Play That Game isn’t breaking much new ground here.  And if it weren’t for the likeability of Fox, George and Lewis, and Brown’s writing, I’d chalk this up to just another DTD date movie that wasn’t good enough for theatrical.  As it stands, though, it’s a fairly fun watch if you’re a guy and probably a barn burner if you’re the guy’s chick.  This is also a nice reprisal for Fox from her previous movie and I’ve generally liked the majority of her work.  She brings a sassy sexiness to Shante, which has one of her better roles of late.  

The Package

Pretty much your standard fare with 1.85:1 Anamorphic and Dolby Digital, although they do go the extra mile interms of languages with French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai?  Subtitles run the same languages, but also include Chinese.  There’s about three minutes of deleted scenes also.

5.9 out of 10