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film review

Walter Thomson

2 Days in New York plays like 2 years in Attica. You don't watch this movie so much as serve it out, a light comedy doled out as a heavy sentence. A run-on sentence in this case – here a load of French farce; there a little faux Woody Allen; now a surreal burst of pseudo-profundity. Surprisingly, our warden is Julie Delpy who, having opted to make a sequel to her directorial debut in 2 Days in Paris, has brought back the characters for a return visit. Well, hide the welcome mat – these are the sort of visitors who just won't leave.

Marion (Delpy) is divorced now and living with Mingus (Chris Rock sporting Malcolm X horn-rims) in Manhattan, where they share an apartment with their two children from previous marriages. She's a conceptual artist whose latest concept is to "sell her soul to the highest bidder." Don't ask. He's a radio deejay on a call-in show. Ask, but be prepared to hear his deadly droning into a live mic. In the bedroom, what with the kids and the cats, their coitus is frequently interruptus – a running gag that stumbles three times by my loose count.

Anyway, guess who's coming to dinner: Her Parisian kin, Daddy and sister and sis's boyfriend who all, in a reversal of the stereotype, are the boorish French let loose in America. Everything else is just a succession of buffoon set-pieces: at the dinner table, where negotiating the language barrier leads to hilarity on the order of, "Mingus – rhymes with cunnilingus;" at the Thai massage parlour, where ol' Dad exposes his wrinkled behind; in the yoga studio, where horny sis flashes her breasts. Sis is always flashing something, especially around Mingus. Once, on his cellphone at home, he glimpses her naked across the hall and promptly terminates the call with a sly, "Something just came up." Oh, warden Delpy, this is cruel and unusual punishment.

I could go on, but that's precisely what the movie does – on and on in the same hyper vein. Once upon a time, back when she was helping to write Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, Delpy showed a keen eye for the nuances of relationships and an attuned ear to the rhythm of dialogue. In the interim, the poor woman seems to have grown blind and tone deaf.

As for Rock, the comic is mainly asked to play the straight man here but, tiring of the task, occasionally retreats into Mingus's study where he extemporizes one-sided chats with – wait for this – a life-size cardboard cut-out of Barack Obama. Call him two-dimensional, yet say this for the President: He proves a much better listener than the rest of us.

Anyway, about a day-and-a-half in, during yet another clunky set-piece at the conceptual art gallery, we the inmates have gone way beyond restless into open revolt. Too bad – it spoils any hope of time off for good behaviour.