Monday, May 9, 2011

Jumping the Broom

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Vineyard Serves as Setting for “Fish Out of Water” Comedy

Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso), a rising star at Goldman Sachs’ Manhattan office, never introduced any of his friends or family members to his relatively-refined fiancée, Sabrina Watson, (Paula Patton), the whole time they were dating. After all, her high-falutin’ parents (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell) have a mansion up on Martha’s Vineyard, so he’s a little embarrassed about hailing from humble origins and the fact that his widowed mom, Pam (Loretta Devine) works as a window clerk in a Post Office in Brooklyn.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t prevent Jason from popping the question after a whirlwind romance of just five months and, when Sabrina accepts, the two decide to tie the knot right away at her folks’ place up on the Vineyard. However, that means that the Taylor and the Watson clans will finally meet for the first time on the island.
This sets the stage for the epic ghetto vs. bourgie clash which ensues over the course of one incomparably-eventful weekend in Jumping the Broom, an old-fashioned “fish out of water” comedy marking the feature film debut of veteran TV director Salim Akil (“Girlfriends” and “The Game”). Not only does this unlikely gathering serve as fodder for plenty of coarse jokes, but the festivities also take on the distinct tone of a soap opera as all manner of messy skeletons come bursting out of the closet.
Not surprisingly, most of the laughs come courtesy of the trashy Taylors while the uptight Watsons are the ones with the shocking revelations. Since it would be unfair to spoil the flick by divulging the latter, allow me to elaborate solely on the movie’s lowbrow brand of humor.
For example, flirtatious Cousin Malcolm (DeRay Davis) offends a bridesmaid by saying, “I don’t usually talk to dark-skinned girls, but I’m making an exception with you.” Furthermore, he confesses to feeling nervous about the presence of Caucasians since, “Any time I’m around white people, I get arrested.” Yet, that doesn’t prevent the loquacious ladies man from later developing a case of Jungle Fever when he has his head turned by the clumsy but comely, white wedding planner (Julie Bowen).
Speaking of guests dating the help, maid of honor Blythe (Meagan Good) rejects Malcolm’s awkward advances in favor of the smoothly-seductive Chef McKenna (Gary Dourdan). And elsewhere on the sprawling estate, Pam’s middle-aged, best friend, Shonda (Tasha Smith), finds herself falling for a charming Yale University undergrad (Romeo Miller) less than half her age.
Then there’s Jason’s Uncle Willie Earl (Mike Epps), who hates ferries because, “They make you feel like they’re taking you back to Africa.” Still, the movie’s most divisive remarks are reserved for sassy Pam who feels “like a bald stepchild at my own son’s wedding” after the bride and groom initially refuse to incorporate the heirloom she’s brought along into their solemn ceremony.
Mother Taylor would like the couple to “Jump the Broom” in accordance with a longstanding, cultural tradition dating back to slave days when their ancestors weren’t even allowed to marry legally. “You’re black!” she blurts out in frustration to try to shame her horrified hosts into acknowledging their roots.
As hopeless as the situation sounds, leave it to Reverend James (Bishop T.D. Jakes) to minister to this dysfunctional menagerie. With him on the case, it’s merely a matter of time before compromises are reached, vows are exchanged, and the entire wedding party’s doing the Cupid Shuffle as the closing credits roll.
The African-American answer to “Meet the Parents!”

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality and profanity.
In English, French and Italian with subtitles.
Running time: 113 Minutes
Distributor: Columbia TriStar Pictures

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