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"Guess Who"

Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan ("How Stella Got Her Groove Back").
Written by David Ronn, Jay Scherick and Peter Tolan.
Starring Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Saldana and Judith Scott.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  3/29/05

Folks--

"Guess Who", the new comedy based ever-so-loosely on the Sidney Poitier drama "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", has some funny moments, a good lead pairing in Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, and a storyline that moves things along quickly as we come to the "Of course we can all get along" conclusion.  But, why didn't I like this film more?

Simon (Kutcher) and his new fiancée Theresa (Zoe Saldana) are a happy, interracial couple living in New York City...and, they're about to go meet Theresa's parents to announce their engagement.  Simon is scared to death, not only because he has just quit his high-paying job at an investment firm downtown but because Theresa's dad, Percy (Bernie Mac), doesn't seem like the kind, caring type--we first see Percy in a still picture in Simon's apartment yelling at a referee during a youth-league basketball game that Theresa's team was winning.

And, of course, Simon's a little worried that Theresa hasn't told her father that she's dating a white guy.  Just a little.

As someone that can speak first-hand about what it really feels like to meet the parents of a person you are dating that is not of the same race, "Guess Who" even as a comedy brings back some of the hard memories of seeing parents react to the choices their daughter has made.  That's what makes the conversation points that Percy has with his wife (played by Judith Scott) so good or why watching Grandpa overreact to Theresa's decision to not date any black guys in New York City so funny.  Obviously, the route that Simon takes in winning the trust of Percy over the course of the movie is a bit extreme at times--showing him how to dance the tango or to try and beat him at go kart racing--but the curve behind accepting a person not based on race but on the ability to make the daughter happy is the part that I enjoyed the most about the movie.

But, since "Guess Who" is played strictly for laughs, I was kind of hoping it would be, well, funnier...and, it's not.  I don't remember laughing out loud at all; there are no truly great, hilarious scenes in the film, but there are a lot of amusing sequences.  The black jokes at the dinner table bit was amusing.  Watching Percy and Simon react to songs like "Ebony & Ivory" playing on the radio: amusing.  Watching Percy try to apologize to his wife near the end of the film: amusing.  But, none of it is the kind of comedy you might expect from a pairing like Kutcher and Mac; it is just a little too lukewarm for my tastes.

Saldana and Kutcher do make for a very believable, good-looking, compatible couple, and I thought the best performer in the film was Scott as the wife of Percy; she was fantastic and the kind of woman you could believe could keep Percy in check whenever he got a little too touchy with Theresa's suitors.  The ending of "Guess Who" was great, and the outtakes were kinda cool, too.  Again, though...the film almost screams mediocrity to me, and this is reflected even in those outtakes, where we get the typical all-the-characters-suddenly-feel-the-need-to-dance bit.  Why wasn't that funnier?

Very average film.  But, there are good enough reasons to catch this in the theater, especially in a packed house where you get a few more laughs for your buck by listening to other people laugh at some of these jokes.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09