You doze long before 'I do's'
By John Anderson
Friday, March q12, 2010
Unless you can get a prenup from your local movie house, you should probably pass up "Our Family Wedding," a slightly tacky but strictly high-concept affair: "Romeo and Juliet" played out between Mexican Capulets and African American Montagues, families who reflexively despise each other and don't do much to keep us guests from agreeing with both of them. Believe it: The only bouquet anyone's going to catch from this contrivance has the aroma of stale comedy.
But it's a wedding movie, and wedding movies are as predictable as a carload of randy teenagers going to a cabin on the lake so they can drink and have sex. In such a case, a deranged serial killer is going to show up and hack them to death. In wedding movies, deranged relatives are going to show up and fall into the wedding cake. They're both horror movies, of course, but serial-killer films have to maintain a degree of plausibility.
Director Rick Famuyiwa must like weddings -- "The Wood," which he directed, was built around one, too. And one can see why: Emotions are volatile, expectations are unreasonable, people are on edge. It can be weepy or funny or, since derangement is the mother-in-law of comedy, very funny.
In this case the happy couple are Lucia Ramirez and Marcus Boyd (America Ferrera and Lance Gross), she a recent law-school dropout, he a doctor heading off to join Doctors Without Borders in Laos, hence their haste to tie the knot. Whatever they will face in Southeast Asia, it's nothing compared with the challenge of breaking the news to their respective families that Lucia, who is Hispanic, is marrying Marcus, who is black. Not that anyone's a bigot of course, it's just that -- well, it simply isn't done.
For all the contrived situations, flaccid jokes and exhausted conventions, "Our Family Wedding" is an interesting example of how the issue of ethnicity is addressed in pop culture. Some black/white/brown movies try to ignore it; some pretend it's not the central issue when it is. "Our Family Wedding" throws the race card right on the table, but also provides an early clash between the movie's twin goofball patriarchs, so they're established as natural antagonists without being -- necessarily -- natural racists.
Brad Boyd (Forest Whitaker) is an L.A. radio personality and single dad who raised Marcus with the help of his longtime lawyer, Angela (Regina King). Miguel Ramirez (Carlos Mencia) is the owner of a custom-car shop and towing service who, early in the film, puts the hook on Brad's illegally parked Audi, sparking an ethnic-insult-riddled confrontation that isn't amusing but gives them a reason to already hate each other when the kids show up to break their happy news.
There are two reasons to see this movie: King, who as usual outclasses everyone else, including Whitaker. And Anjelah Johnson, who plays Lucia's sister Isabella, a possibly lesbian auto mechanic ("You've always been my favorite son," her father tells her) and sardonic Greek chorus to the goings-on. "This is gonna be so good," she says as she sizes up the inter-familial collision that's about to occur. But what's really good is Izzy saying, "This is gonna be so good."
"Our Family Wedding's" premise is so thin that the film can't help but expire halfway through its more than 100 minutes. We get much more wedding than we need, and not nearly enough reasons to say "I do."
Contains sexuality and vulgarity.