We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

There’s no question that some elements of Breakin’ All the Rules are tired. It is, after all, a romantic comedy starring Jamie Foxx. Throughout the movie’s 85 minutes, writer-director Daniel Taplitz also falls back on ho-ho! staples such as tiny dogs, a horny old man, and the perennial smack-into-a-pole-while-running gag. (Really, is that ever funny?) The point of all the mirthfulness is, of course, luv—falling in it and, more important, getting out of it. Foxx plays Quincy Watson, a book editor who is unceremoniously dumped by his fiancée—at their engagement party, within view of Quincy’s friends. The former bride-to-be’s lack of tact—not to mention a recent work assignment to use his background in psychology to come up with a method of firing people that ensures they don’t go postal—spurs the heartbroken Quincy to write a scientific guide to breaking up with someone. The book becomes a best-seller, and Quincy a guru. His advice is then sought by his cousin Evan (Morris Chestnut), who thinks girlfriend Nicky (Gabrielle Union) is about to dump him, and also by his mousy boss, Philip (Peter MacNicol), who wants to rid himself of way-outta-his-league gold-digger Rita (Jennifer Esposito). Pleasantly, however, Breakin’ All the Rules defies expectations with smart characters and a likable cast, including a Foxx who is both subdued and charming. Besides the slapstick stuff, the humor, mostly concerning relationships, is conversational rather than quippy, and even the standbys get a fresh laugh or two—such as when Evan’s sudden urge to get down to a song on the radio sends Quincy’s pug into a fit of howling. Foxx fans looking for another lowbrow, finger-snappin’ Booty Call will be disappointed to discover that Breakin’ All the Rules at least partly delivers on its title.

—Tricia Olszewski