A glib, cynical romantic comedy, The Brothers has all the emotional depth and honesty of a Ford ad, only with worse production values. The plot follows four black friends through the ups and downs of their love lives. Jackson Smith (Morris Chestnut), a doctor, is the most sympathetic of the four. On the surface a smooth ladies' man, he secretly suffers from a recurring nightmare in which a woman in a wedding gown pulls a gun on him. Jackson thinks that's why he can't make long-term commitments, although his parents could play a part as well. His mother Louise (Jenifer Lewis) flaunts tight, revealing clothes, while her divorced husband Fred (Clifton Powell) has turned into an aging Lothario.

Lawyer Brian Palmer (Bill Bellamy), on the other hand, has no desire to find a steady girlfriend, even if it means being stalked by the women he's dumped. Although Brian pretends to be hard-hearted, he would like nothing more than love and affection from his emotionally distant mother, Helen (Aloma Wright). Derrick West (D.L. Hughley) seems to be happily married to Sheila (Tamala R. Jones), but he's afraid to let his friends know that his sex life is disappointing.

Terry White (Shemar Moore), the fourth member of 'the brothers,' startles the group when he announces that he plans to marry BeBe (Susan Dalian). Jackson is supportive of the marriage, even more so after he falls for freelance photographer Denise (Gabrielle Union). Brian thinks Terry should hold out. As he puts it, 'We're single black professional men. We're the cream of the crop, and sisters ain't up to the job.' Derrick is too busy arguing with his wife about oral sex to add much to the debate.

Things go so well between Jackson and Denise that he surprises himself by confessing his love for her. But Denise has a secret: She once dated Jackson's father, Fred. When Jackson finds out during Terry's bachelor party, he breaks up with her. The dreary montage that follows--a disconsolate Jackson walking through a park alone, Derrick locked out of his house, Fred and Louise getting back together--evokes all the worst excesses of Doris Day romances. When Jackson sees Denise with another man, he must confront his worst fears to solve his problems.

Chestnut has a romantic lead's looks, but the plot requires him to spend most of the film in a sullen funk. The other three leads lack both expertise and conviction. It's up to the older stars, in particular a radiant Jenifer Lewis, to bring some acting chops to the film. Even they can't salvage a script that ranges from saccharine to ludicrous. Males will most likely be indifferent towards The Brothers, while females may decide that the film confirms their worst fears about the opposite sex.

--Daniel Eagan