Is it really that big of a deal when a gorgeous white guy dates a gorgeous African American girl? No.
But the makers of Guess Who would have you believe that it’s a really, really big deal, and that it’s going to make a really, really big difference in your relationship with your family.
It might have, 30 or 40 or 100 years ago. Things are different now; but the entire premise of the movie relies on the idea that the world at large is still paralyzed with discomfort at the idea of interracial couples.
Guess Who is based on wildly outdated attitudes, and as such, it has little merit and even less comic value in today’s casual society.
Translation: it’s not funny. The social context just isn’t relevant anymore.
Here we have a really talented funnyman in Bernie Mac. But he’s stranded in this unkind and dangerously bigoted role.
He’s a wealthy and protective bank loan officer named Percy Jones. His daughter, Theresa (Zoe Saldana) brings her new fiancée Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher) home for a family event.
The family’s unaware that Theresa’s actually going to marry the bumbling white boy; they think it’s just a cute little stunt, or maybe a phase she’s going through. But even the idea of his daughter simply dating (let alone marrying) Simon is intolerable to Percy. Simon tries in vain to impress his would-be in-laws, and Percy ruthlessly rebuffs every attempt.
In one scene, Theresa’s family gangs up on Simon, trying to trap him into admitting that he and his family are racists. They eventually goad him into re-telling some racist jokes he’d heard, then turn the tables to humiliate him and make him look like the racist they so badly want him to be. At this point in the movie, the Jones family has not only succeeded in making themselves look like racists, but they’re also beginning to appear paranoid and caustic as well.
The Jones are not a very likable family, and Percy in particular is mean and manipulative.
Kutcher is usually a delight, and as the unfairly targeted Caucasion underdog, you’ll want to root for him. But the script calls for him to pull a number of imbecile and unsympathetic exploits.
Saldana is bland as Theresa, pouting through her starring role as though she’s perfectly aware that she’s handing the spotlight to everyone else — including the more interesting supporting roles.
Bernie Mac, the superstar with superstar boxy to spare, stands to lose the most here. He’s just the African American counterpart to Robert DeNiro’s obnoxious overly-protective father in Meet the Parents and its unfortunate sequel, Meet the Fockers.
Oh well, Bernie. There’s always Ocean’s 13 to look forward to.
Grade: C- Opens tomorrow. Rated PG-13 for sex-related humor. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
New on DVD:
Finding Neverland: The refined and eccentric Johnny Depp takes the next step in is oh-so-becoming transformation to full blown Oscar-toting superstardom in Finding Neverland, the semi-biographical story of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie.
This is a triumph of subtlety and grace,x simultaneously rooted in innocence and reaching for greater meaning. Grade: A. Rated PG, for mild thematic elements and brief language
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Very little of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is original. Most is a dry cut-andpaste comedy with exactly the same scenarios lifted right out of the first film. There’s nothing really bad or unpleasant in The Edge of Reason — but there’s something lost of Bridget’s daft innocence. This slightly cynical script reduces Zellweger’s character to a foppish, snarky clown. Colin Firth and Hugh Grant are dapper and slick in a shallow regurgitation of sparkling original content. But really: what business do actors of such high caliber have in a film of such inconsequence? Grade: C+ Rated R for language and some sexual content.