One thing almost every movie needs to succeed is an appropriate ending. If a movie doesn't have a satisfactory conclusion - even when the rest is fine - it's bound to suffer.

That's the malady afflicting "Hav Plenty," an infuriatingly uneven urban romantic comedy, which is still heads and shoulders above the rest of its ilk - something that isn't all that difficult to achieve when the competition includes the likes of "Booty Call" or "Def Jam's How to Be a Player."What's particularly unfortunate here, however, is that "Hav Plenty" remains much better than any recent comic romances until the final 15 minutes. The fumbled finale is so out of sync with the rest of the film, and so cliche-ridden, that it nearly undoes everything that has gone before.

Talented newcomer Christopher Scott Cherot wrote, produced, directed and edited the film, and he stars as Lee Plenty, an impoverished aspiring author who is housesitting for an old college friend, the beautiful but career-obsessed Havilland Savage (Chenoa Maxwell).

Chaos ensues when Havilland . . . known as "Hav" . . . feels lonely because she's been jilted by her philandering musician boyfriend (Hill Harper) and invites the outspoken but charming Lee to spend New Year's weekend with her in Washington, D.C. - along wth some friends and family.

First, Hav's brazen friend Caroline (Tammi Katherine Jones) comes on to Lee (unsuccessfully). Then, Hav's uncertain, married sister Leigh (Robinne Lee) does the same thing (also unsuccessfully). And when Hav and Lee's long-running but unspoken romantic attraction finally comes bubbling to the surface, there are even more disastrous results.

Cherot, who reluctantly stepped into the role of Lee Plenty when his original choice dropped out of the project, is a charismatic performer, and as a screenwriter he has a great ear for dialogue (his comic asides, akin to those of Woody Allen, are a hoot). Unfortunately, his plotting isn't nearly as good, and the film runs out of steam before ending on a sour note.

However, he's surrounded himself with a cast of talented newcomers, including Maxwell, Lee and Jones (who is particularly funny in a supporting role), which obviously helps.

And give Cherot credit for not resorting to cheap sex jokes, even though there are many opportunities for them. Instead, he tries to make the humor more subtle and his characters as "normal" as such screwed-up human beings can be.

"Hav Plenty" is rated R for profanity, some vulgar gags and references and one violent fist fight.