Picks and Pans Review: Strictly Business

updated 11/25/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/25/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Joseph C. Phillips, Halle Berry

Those in search of a trenchant, movie about the struggles and triumphs of upwardly mobile blacks need look a lot further than this toothless, unfunny comedy. Waymon Tinsdale III (Phillips) is a hotshot broker angling for a partnership at one of Manhattan's largest realty companies. He's dressed by Brooks Brothers, looks like Sidney Poitier, plays a mean game of squash, drives a BMW and has a pretentious harpy girlfriend (Anne Marie Johnson) who barks out orders when the two make love.

The career-directed Waymon is thrown for a curve when he meets Natalie (Berry), a lissome club promoter who, quite understandably, finds him square beyond belief. In desperation, he turns to his friend Bobby (Tommy Davidson), who works in the firm's mail room and dresses, in sharp contrast to Waymon, in jeans and high tops. The two strike a deal: Bobby will help Way-mon buy the. proper clothes, learn the proper jive and strike the proper attitude to win Natalie if Waymon will gel him into the broker-trainee program. Every opportunity for satire—for example, Bobby's assumption of Pygmalion's mantle and Waymon's discomfiture in Harlem—is ignored. Every plot turn, no matter how complicated, is resolved in a matter of minutes. One can feel only the deepest sympathy for the actors marooned in this enterprise. (PG-13)

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