Deliver Us From Eva

"Deliver Us Fom Eva" may be dumb, but it must be noted that the screenwriters of this slight, silly comedy have borrowed from the best. The film revolves around a famous Shakespearean concept: Frustrated guys pay a lothario -- that's player to you -- to go out with the meanest woman in town and keep her out of their hair while they hook up with her sisters.

The shrew to be tamed here is Eva (Gabrielle Union), the oldest and most gorgeous of the beautiful Dandridge sisters. When their parents died, Eva gave up her dreams of being a horse trainer and reared the three other girls with an iron hand, which she now applies to their trifling husbands and boyfriend, although apparently these guys are not that shiftless, because they all seem to have nice houses, great clothes and plenty of ready cash for the bribe.

The guys basically want Eva's somewhat interchangeable sisters to pay more attention to them. (One sister is New Age-y; another is a doctor, though you never see her at work; the youngest is apparently still a student somewhere, because she talks about studying and pouts over a laptop). The guys are sick of hearing Eva quoted at them every second, and they figure if she would just fall in love, she'd stop spending so much time bossing them around.

After seeing Ray's (LL Cool J) cool moves at a bar, they decide to pay him five grand -- which, as you know, everyone has lying around the house -- to woo Eva, lure her to move away with him and then dump her.

How exactly this would get Eva out of their lives remains unclear -- even if all this happened, wouldn't she just move home again since she's so close to her sisters? -- but the guys think it's a good idea, and "Deliver Us from Eva" is off and running. Or rather, off and limping.

This movie isn't half as funny as it should be, but there are just enough chuckles to keep it out of bottom-feeder territory, most of them supplied by Kym Whitley as the requisite sassy, man-hungry, busting-out-of-her-clothes friend who works in a beauty parlor. The setting provides a couple of girl-power laughs, but "Barbershop" this isn't.

The guys (Duane Martin, Mel Jackson, Dartanyan Edmonds) are irritating, demanding, whiny, emasculated wimps. You can't really blame Eva for sneering at them. LL Cool J is more or less a straight man here, but at least he's got presence; he's likable and manages some chemistry with Union, whose character doesn't get beyond the cardboard stage until she thaws to his charisma. Which says something about the movie's take on the battle of the sexes, but I'm not sure what, exactly.

But "Deliver Us from Eva" isn't "The Taming of the Shrew"; it's not even a reasonable facsimile. Borrowing from the best only gets you so far, and "Eva" doesn't provide many sparks of its own. And that's not something you can blame on Shakespeare.


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