Perhaps one of the scariest moments in any romantic relationship is that judgment day when you meet your significant other’s parents. Your heart beats quickly, your stomach muscles tighten, as you know you must make a good impression on these people who are probably over-protective of their offspring because they only want the best for them.
But can you be the best?
Most people have probably experienced this very tense day of reckoning in some form and can relate to the situation, which is probably why countless films have been made dealing with the situation. So, at first thought, Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s “Guess Who,” a reverse remake of the 1967 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” might bring unenthusiastic reactions like “Oh, no, not another ‘Meet the Parents.'” But “Guess Who” delivers something nice — namely some good laughs — to audiences willing to give it a chance and wait it out.
Sure, it’s a story that’s been done so much it’s almost nauseating. Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher), a young white stockbroker, is off to spend the weekend with the parents of his lovely fianc?e, Theresa Jones (Zoe Saldana), who happens to be African American. Unfortunately and unbelievably, Theresa forgot to mention one small detail about her boyfriend — the color of his skin — before introducing him to the family. And this surprising news seems especially hard on her daddy, Percy Jones (Bernie Mac).
The plot is filled with clich?s. Future son-in-law is jobless. Check. Dad checks up and spies on boyfriend. Check. Dad catches the two lovers nearly going at it and kicks the boyfriend out of the house. Check. Future father-in-law shares bed with daughter’s fianc?. Check. Misunderstanding and mess-ups, on both parts, ensue. Check. Sentimental talks about love and life bring people close together. Check. There’s a big party with dancing at the end. Check.
“Guess Who” begins with a slow pace as a lot of the same old jokes surface. But somewhere along the way — maybe it’s when Percy Jones drives Green to a hotel and he can’t escape songs about interracial relationships on the radio — it starts to pick up and become apparent that Mac and Kutcher actually make a decent comedy duo.
Kutcher proves, in this film, that he should stick with comedy, at least somewhat redeeming himself from the tragedy that was “The Butterfly Effect.” His comic timing often is right on, as when Percy Jones is fumbling over trying to explain himself in one sticky situation, and Kutcher jumps, literally, right in to make his point.
Mac’s dynamic facial expressions — of bewilderment, scheming, and, most importantly, anger — bring as much laughter to the audience as they instill fear into the heart of Simon Green. His eyes bulge out at various perfect moments throughout the film, bringing a funny intimidation to this future father-in-law.
The women also add a special flavor to the film, keeping their male counterparts in check. As Theresa, Saldana shows a sweet and sensitive side in supporting her fianc?, making their love for each other real. This is later juxtaposed with her smile-less, silent composure, revealing her shock and anger. And she speaks from her heart in an engaging scene with her father, as she talks about whether it’s OK, in this day and age, to have an interracial relationship. Judith Scott plays the tango-dancing mother of Theresa, who knows when not to put up with Percy Jones. But with one stern look from the eyes, she shows the one person who can bring him down.
In fact, one night, all the female family members get together to drink and talk trash about their men, resulting in a situation that leaves even the manliest of men, Percy Jones, hilariously fearing for his life.
This ensemble cast brings much needed humor and sentimentality to a story that’s anything but fresh. Maybe some jokes get old fast. But some jokes, performed by the right comedians, never lose their punch.