Mother-in-law joke gone wild
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, May 6, 2011
Although the title “Jumping the Broom” refers to an African American wedding ritual, it might unintentionally conjure up images of the wicked witch after spending a couple of hours with the motherzillas of the bride and groom at the heart of Salim Akil’s dramedy. Just in time for Mother’s Day, Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine swoop into theaters to personify caregivers seemingly determined to eclipse “Mommie Dearest” and Tyler Perry’s Madea.
Oddly enough, the whole thing starts with a prayer. Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) is a woman with a promising career and an affinity for one-night stands. After a particularly demeaning wake-up call, Sabrina swears that she won’t give away her “cookies” again until she’s married. It’s enough to make you want to give up dessert.
The almighty delivers with Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso), a handsome, self-made man who pops the question after dating Sabrina six months. But the wedding turns out to be less the answer to Sabrina’s prayers than a helping of fire and brimstone. The nuptials are to take place at the sprawling Martha’s Vineyard estate owned by Sabrina’s parents. In case the mansion isn’t enough to prove the Watsons’ class, they occasionally switch from English to French and back again, just to drive the point home. While Sabrina’s father is a fairly laid-back guy, her mother, Claudine (Bassett), is more frigid than her Sub-Zero.
Jason’s mother, Pam (Devine), works at a Brooklyn post office, which is apt since going postal seems to be her preferred hobby, even though she’s already gone through anger management.
Can you say oil and water? How about gasoline and a lit match?
As soon as Pam arrives at the Watson compound, both women come out firing in a way that’s as unbelievable as it is unpleasant. And that’s really the problem — these mothers are malicious. Weddings, as they say, can bring out the worst in people, but Pam’s and Claudine’s worst is too torturous to earn a laugh and too outlandish to prove a point.
The contagiously unhappy mothers aren’t the only sources of turmoil. Claudine also slaps her sister and despises her husband; the groom has bad blood with his cousin, who in turn dislikes the best man; and that’s before the emergence of plot points involving bankruptcy and secret adoptions. By the time the increasingly histrionic bride-to-be starts to doubt this God-ordained match-up, the audience may be begging for a break-up.
Thank goodness for Tasha Smith’s character, Shonda. She supplies the only reliable laughs as Pam’s fun-loving best friend, who halfheartedly fends off the advances of the bride’s much-younger cousin, Sebastien (Romeo Miller).
Any light moments are quickly nullified by the oppressive women vying for the title of world’s meanest mom. But maybe that means “Jumping the Broom” is the perfect Mother’s Day movie, after all. No matter how crazy you think your mother is, it can’t get much worse than this.
Contains language, sexual situations and mild violence. In English and occasional, ostentatious French.