This drama about the tragic realities of fathers and sons in unforgiving urban environs can't measure up to the lyricism of its star's own music. It stars Common, the thoughtful, charismatic Chicago rhymer who, in three- and four-minute hip-hop ruminations, summons more vibrant social imagery than these well-intended but hollow 1 1/2 hours. Taking place over a day in Baltimore, "LUV" stars Common as the former convict Vincent, who takes his 11-year-old nephew Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) for a lesson-filled day of bonding. But Vincent's qualifications are questionable: He's desperate for the $22,000 he needs for a business loan and has gang members after him. It's a promising enough conceit a stressed, untrustworthy but inherently decent guy trying to play the role model but the day takes awkward, implausible turns, jumping from violence to stone-skipping in the harbor. The dialogue, too, is often cringe-worthy as the two meet various friends and associates of Vincent's, with cameos by Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert, Clark Johnson and Michael Kenneth Williams. The cliches mount as the journey leads to bloody standoffs and drug dealer confrontations. Still, there is tenderness here, and first-time director Sheldon Candis should further develop his naturalistic impulse. We are, after all, not exactly showered with intimate, aspiring films of urban life.
-- ASSOCIATED PRESS