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35 and Ticking

"35 and Ticking" is a lightly amusing indie with appreciably more laughs than many more star-studded and heavily hyped comedies of its kind.

Cast:
With: Tamala Jones, Nicole Ari Parker, Keith Robinson, Darius McCrary, Dondre Whitfield, Jill Marie Jones, Clifton Powell, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Kevin Hart, Meagan Good, Mike Epps.

Although it often plays like a mash-up of excerpts from a long-running TV sitcom, “35 and Ticking” is a lightly amusing indie with appreciably more laughs than many more star-studded and heavily hyped comedies of its kind. Writer-director Russ Parr doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with his episodic scenario about four thirtysomething black friends and their romantic misadventures. But he gets engaging performances from his well-cast lead players and provides his target 30-plus aud with a few gentle shocks of recognition along with the funny business. Pic could post modestly impressive numbers in limited theatrical play before homevid rollout.

The pre-fab plot — which echoes everything from “Friends” to “When Harry Met Sally…” — is propelled by the sporadic get-togethers of four longtime buddies: Zenobia (Nicole Ari Parker), a stunningly beautiful TV sportscaster anxious about her unmarried status and ticking biological clock; Victoria (Tamala Jones), who’s also eager to have children and increasingly worried that her husband (Dondre Whitfield) isn’t; Phil (Keith Robinson), a dutiful family guy whose irresponsible wife (Jill Marie Jones) is too busy hearty-partying to be concerned about their small children; and Cleavon (Kevin Hart), a romantically challenged jokester who pays the bills by making regular deposits at a sperm bank.

The four friends alternate between spirited teasing and earnest commiseration whenever they’re together. During the scenes between their confabs, however, Victoria and Phil have to do some dramatic heavy lifting, mostly due to domestic strife. By contrast, Zenobia copes with nothing more serious than a disastrous blind date, while Cleavon pretends to a banker (involving deposits of a different sort) while courting a nursing-school grad (Meagan Good).

Cleavon’s constant need to consume vast quantities of water triggers far too many gags about delayed urination, and at least two jokes about urination that isn’t delayed at all. But Parr saves the really broad humor for borderline-cartoonish supporting characters such as an overage gangsta rapper (Clifton Powell), a prideful basketball star (Darius McCrary) and Victoria’s noisily squabbling neighbors (Mike Epps, Wendy Raquel Robinson).

“35 and Ticking” proceeds at an amiably unhurried pace but doesn’t overstay its welcome. Individually and in tandem, the four leads are credible and creditable as vividly drawn characters who have known each other forever, offer constructive criticism when it’s called for even when it isn’t fully appreciated, and love each other despite full awareness of each other’s quirks and foibles. While the storyline is hardly rife with surprising turnabouts, Parr deserves some credit for not neatly wrapping up things in completely predictable fashion.

Production values are unobtrusively unremarkable.

35 and Ticking

Production: An Image Entertainment release of an Uptoparr Prods. Production in association with Swirl Films. Produced by David Eubanks, Eric Tomosunas. Executive producers, Russ Parr, Kym Whitley, Mike Epps. Directed, written by Russ Parr.

Crew: Camera (color), Jeff Bollman; editor, Dante Wyatt; music, Kenneth Lampl; music supervisor, "Jungle Jim" Shaughnessy; art director, Marissa Leguizamon; set decorator, Stephanie Feinerman; costume designer, Roni Burks; sound, Kennard Morris; assistant director, Roger Melvin; casting, Skoti Collins. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, June 24, 2011. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 MIN.

With: With: Tamala Jones, Nicole Ari Parker, Keith Robinson, Darius McCrary, Dondre Whitfield, Jill Marie Jones, Clifton Powell, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Kevin Hart, Meagan Good, Mike Epps.

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