Sprung

Writer-director Rusty Cundieff, whose first two features, "Fear of a Black Hat" and "Tales From the Hood," put an African-American spin on the music mockumentary and horror anthology genres, has taken on that most delicate of confections, the classic screwball comedy. Unfortunately, "Sprung" lacks the split-second timing and crackling dialogue that are hallmarks of the form, relying instead on raunchy sex jokes to generate its few real laughs. Tagged with an R rating despite a lack of nudity or violence, the film's theatrical prospects appear extremely limited. Pic focuses on two pairs of best friends: shy, sensitive Montel (Cundieff) and his macho buddy Clyde (Joe Torry) on the one hand, and world-weary law clerk Brandy (Tisha Campbell) and her gold-digging sexpot pal Adina (Paul Jai Parker) on the other.

With:
Brandy ..... Tisha Campbell Montel ..... Rusty Cundieff Adina ..... Paula Jai Parker Clyde ..... Joe Torry Detective ..... John Witherspoon Veronica ..... Jennifer Lee Grand Daddy ..... Clarence Williams III

When the four meet at a party, the flashily dressed Clyde dupes Adina into believing he’s rich and quickly gets her back to his apartment and into the sack. Upon realizing she’s been had, Adina metes out her revenge and the two become sworn enemies.

Meanwhile, Brandy and Montel overcome a frosty initial encounter to fall deeply in love — they’re “sprung” on each other, in street parlance. But when their respective best friends learn of the lovebirds’ plan to move in together, they team up to put an end to the whole thing.

After trying unsuccessfully to convince Brandy and Montel of the pitfalls of marriage, Clyde and Adina cook up a scheme to frame Montel for cheating. It works and the couple breaks up, but soon the plotters are so overcome with guilt — and sick of their friends’ lovelorn moping — that they conspire to undo the damage.

With the exception of the disarming and genuinely funny Torry, none of the film’s stars has the comedic chops needed to breathe life into this tired conceit. Cundieff and Campbell, while attractive, are just too earnest to be much fun. Parker is so far over the top she’s wearying.

Also, director Cundieff can’t seem to decide if he’s making a romantic comedy or a cartoon: One minute Montel is gushing cloyingly about the nature of true love, the next minute Clyde gets decked by Adina and animated birds and stars are flying around his head.

That lack of conviction pervades this well-meaning but ultimately predictable and overlong picture.

“Sprung’s” visual highlights are its costumes — especially Adina’s hilarious succession of ’70s-inspired getups — and its retro-Afro set decoration.

Sprung

Production: A Trimark Pictures release of a Darin Scott production in association with Trimark Prods. Produced by Scott. Executive producer, Mark Amin. Co-producer, Jonathon Komack Martin. Directed by Rusty Cundieff. Screenplay, Cundieff, Darin Scott.

Crew: Camera, Joao Fernandes; editor, Lisa Bromwell; music, Stanley Clarke; production design, Terrence Foster; set decoration, Melanie Paizis; costume design, Tracey White; sound, Oliver L. Moss; assistant director, Van A Hayden; casting, Tony Lee. Reviewed at the Hollywood Galaxy, L.A., May 14, 1997. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: Brandy ..... Tisha Campbell Montel ..... Rusty Cundieff Adina ..... Paula Jai Parker Clyde ..... Joe Torry Detective ..... John Witherspoon Veronica ..... Jennifer Lee Grand Daddy ..... Clarence Williams III

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