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They have `Issues' in romance

The relationship film has heart as well as an ear for comedy, but it tries to do too much and is hampered by static staging.

October 06, 2006|Michael Ordona | Special to The Times

"Issues" is an upwardly mobile African American relationship comedy with the usual virtues and flaws of shoestring-budget labors of love.

At the film's center are roommates (and cousins) Royce and Damien. Uptight Royce treats women respectfully but may be getting played by his gold-digger girlfriend (Damien says she's "frontin' ... , playin' Red Light, Green Light"). Smack-talking lothario Damien climbs every female mountain he can find, searching for his Everest. Into their lives come two lovely lasses, sweet Toni and bitter Nicole. Who will end up with whom, and how?

Ben Watkins is a likable Royce. As Damien, Laz Alonso gets the bulk of the laugh lines. When trying to show gratitude, he gushes, "I'm gonna be just like you when I get old as hell one day."

Writer-director-editor Van Elder has an ear for funny dialogue but occasionally stretches too far (as in Damien's libidinous interpretation of the current war in Iraq) and tries to cover too many topics. Elder's staging is too static for the screen; some walking with the talking would have helped. Many scenes suffer from clumsy exposition and need trimming.

"Issues" is scattershot and its couplings predictable, but it does offer some laughs and heart.



MPAA rating: Unrated

A Bullz Eye Productions release. Director-writer-editor Van Elder. Producers Elder, Lisa DeWitt. Director of photography Roger Chingirian. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.

Exclusively at Laemmle's Grande, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown L.A. (213) 617-0268.

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