“I found out that if you wanna know the purpose of a thing, you can’t ask the thing to tell you. A car doesn’t know why it’s a car; only the manufacturer knows what it was meant to do. And I guess that’s the same way it is with God.”
Not Easily Broken was written by a minister, Bishop T.D. Jakes. So you should expect a very spiritual message when you watch this movie. If that’s not your cup of tea, as they say, this really isn’t going to be the film for you. The message is quite clear throughout the film: Life will throw everything it’s got at you. It will try you. It will test you. The movie proposes that only through a spiritual connection with God can you overcome these obstacles. The story uses the example of marriage, but it’s obviously intended to apply to every aspect of life.
When we first meet Clarice (Henson) and Dave (Chestnut) they are just getting married. The Bishop (Hall) is explaining to them that they are being bound by a three-stranded rope. He explains that they’re lives will be good as long as they allow God to represent that third strand. We already know there’s going to be mother-in-law problems by the dirty look she gives Dave from the pews when the Bishop tells him he may kiss his bride. At this point in their lives they have huge dreams. Dave is a big professional baseball prospect, and Clarice has a knack for selling houses. It all looks rosy until an unfortunate slide into home at the end of his rookie season destroys Dave’s dreams of becoming a star athlete. Clarice has succeeded and has become the breadwinner in the family. Dave’s trying to run his own business but finds it a struggle that doesn’t ever want to pay off. There are already tensions in the relationship, but they’re working through them. One night an accident changes everything. Clarice is severely injured in a car accident, when another car runs a red light and smashes into them. We know everything is about to change. Clarice’s mom (Lewis) decides to move in and does nothing but criticize everything Dave tries to do. She even openly blames him for the accident that wasn’t his fault. The relationship goes downhill. Dave begins to have feelings for Clarice’s physical therapist (Quinlan), and Clarice knows it. Whether he does anything about it or not, it will nearly bring down the relationship. Dave seeks comfort wherever he can find it, in his friends, the youth baseball team he coaches, even the physical therapist. It’s only when Clarice seeks the guidance of the Bishop that she makes the necessary changes in her own life. The Bishop admonishes her to stop allowing her mother to interfere. He warns her that she is obligated to stand with her husband and not her mother. Will they make it through the crises? The film doesn’t really let us know for sure. We’re only given these glimmers of hope that are made possible when they turn to their faith for help.
One of the fatal flaws, for me, in the movie was the portrayal of Clarice and her mother. They almost never come off as sympathetic, and you really have to ask yourself why Dave would put up with it for so long. They are constantly demeaning and unsupportive. Clarice’s trouble isn’t her faith. Her problem is that she’s a caustic gripe. I can’t imagine that really changing. I don’t know about “the hood”, but where I grew up we have some rather unflattering names for a woman like that. Mama’s problem is that she doesn’t approve of the man and makes sure Clarice and Dave know it. They give the guy trouble for his volunteer work with kids. How selfish can you get? I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure if these personality traits exist in the original source material or as a result of Brian Bird’s screenplay adaptation. Whatever the origin, it takes a lot away from the intended warmth we’re supposed to feel in the end. I know mothers-in-law are often a pain. Don’t even get me started on my own. But, the film gets so tiring. It will literally wear you out before you can appreciate the well intentioned message.
I actually found the supporting cast to be far more interesting and not near so fatiguing. Kevin Hart provides the comic relief as Tree, one of Dave’s buddies. I can’t imagine being able to get through this movie without him. His light nature and self absorption are a welcome respite. Third Watch’s Eddie Cibrian plays Brock, another one of Dave’s buddies. He also delivers a far more compelling tale than the one intended to dominate the film. He has the pivotal role of introducing Dave to Jules, played with too much of a reserved performance by Maeve Quinlan. Finally, Albert Hall is perfectly cast in his authorative role as Bishop Wilkes. He’s a strong character who adds as much sincerity to the part as he does strength. I totally buy him in that role. It’s just unfortunate that the two leads are the weakest links in the cast. I doubt they shoulder much of the blame here. They did what they could with these wearisome parts.
Not Easily Broken is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Everything about this 1080p image works toward atmosphere. The AVC/MPEG-4 codec delivers. Unfortunately colors are often totally washed out by a decidedly strong yellow filter to the image. Sometimes it is so strong that I’m reaching for an old style pair of sunglasses that I imagine to be in front of my eyes. It’s annoying and works against the movie, for the most part. The image itself is pretty strong with a lot of detail and solid black levels. I couldn’t find any hint of print damage or compression problems.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is only average. The score too often intrudes on the dialog. It’s a nice sweet theme, but I got very tired of it very quickly. A good score should be almost invisible. You only really notice how sweet it is during the end credits. Here it announces its repetitive themes at every chance. The mix also is very tame. Don’t expect too much from the surrounds. Yes, it’s a dialog driven film, but there were many opportunities to allow a bit of immersion. In the end you get nothing better than you might expect on an average DVD.
I did have trouble with the menus. The sub-menus have so little contrast it is hard to tell what you have selected.
Making Not Easily Broken: (13:44) (HD) The cast and crew spend most of the time talking about the message and the source material. You’ll meet Bishop Jakes and hear what he intended to say. Unfortunately that intruding theme is even too loud here. We also learn there are some autobiographical elements to Jakes’ story.
Deleted Scenes: (4:55) (SD) There are 7, and you get the optional play all.
The title of the movie is misleading. The truth is that the relationship was very easily broken. The film should have been called Not Easily Repaired. That’s the message we’re getting. The film does, in the end, deliver on what it intends to do. The message is clear that God has the power to make the adjustments in our lives when things have gone off track. It’s all warm and fuzzy logic. Whatever you believe, you might find this one is a bit too tiresome in getting to the point, one we already know is coming from the first scene. I guess we could all gather and talk about our feelings for a moment. But, please. “Don’t make me go all Oprah on you.”