Guess Who
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Kevin Rodney Sullivan
scr David Ronn, Jay Scherick, Peter Tolan
with Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Saldaña, Judith Scott, Kellee Stewart, Robert Curtis-Brown, RonReaco Lee, Hal Williams, Jessica Cauffiel, Mike Epps, David Krumholtz, Richard T Jones
release US 25.Mar.05,
UK 22.Apr.05
05/US Columbia 1h45

I'm watching you: Kutcher and Mac

mac kutcher zaldana

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Guess Who If you never even begin to compare this film to the classic that inspired it (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner), then it's a perfectly enjoyable bit of fluffy farce. Rather than an astute examination of society, this is just a goofy male-bonding romp with a predictable rom-com plot.

Simon (Kutcher) is terrified about meeting his girlfriend's (Saldaña) notoriously protective father Percy (Mac), especially when he realises that she never mentioned that he's white. And sure enough, Percy is not thrilled. Over the course of the weekend, Simon and Percy square off against each other. But the challenges of maintaining their relationships with their women eventually force them to work together.

Basically, the inverted racial element is completely irrelevant, since the filmmakers avoid any actual social commentary in lieu of goofy jokes and wacky set pieces. This is essentially just Meet the Parents with a different pair of actors; and like that film it basically ignores the female characters so father and prospective son-in-law can bicker and bond. Fortunately, Mac and Kutcher have strong chemistry that makes their interaction entertaining. Mac wins us over with his overwhelming personality; Kutcher is surprisingly effective as the sparky nice guy. Their snappy dialog is by far the best thing here, and it carries us through ill-conceived comedy sequences (such as the go-cart race) and lame script cliches (Curtis-Brown's camp party planner, Williams's cranky grandpa).

And even though their roles are woefully underwritten, Saldaña and Scott (as her mother, Percy's wife) inject some life into their characters. There's a nice feistiness in the interaction between all four of these people--their relentless stubbornness is extremely realistic, as is the awkward resolution to their various impasses. On the other hand, the racial humour is extremely strained, from the corny songs on the radio to the string of dinner-table jokes. And it all gets deeply sappy in the end, as if there's some sort of important message in here somewhere. Yeah right. In other words, as long as you're not looking for something meaningful, you might actually enjoy this.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 5.Apr.05

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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall