June 27, 2005 -- “Guess Who” is a romantic comedy vaguely based on the formal 1967 melodrama “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.” It heads off in funky new directions on the subject of inter-racial marriages. The movie has its moments of humor, romance and sentimentality, but it misfires just as often. The story staggers through a series of clumsy jokes and half-hearted romanticism. The story requires smart characters to act stupidly and it never really works.
Bernie Mac (“Mr. 3,000”) stars as Percy Jones, a successful banker who is caught off guard when his daughter, Theresa (Zoe Saldana of “The Terminal”) brings her white boyfriend home to meet her parents. Percy does not like the boyfriend, Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher of “The Butterfly Effect”) and starts finding things wrong with him. Simon is carrying a secret. He has just quit his high-paying banking job because of his boss's racist attitude toward his black girlfriend. He keeps the secret just long enough to get in trouble about it. Simon gets into trouble with Theresa when the truth comes out and Percy gets into trouble with his wife, Marilyn (Judith Scott of “The Santa Clause”). The two men find themselves thrown together in the common cause of getting back into the good graces of Theresa and Marilyn.
The story is not believable. It relies on too many people not saying the obvious thing at the obvious time. Everyone has to act like a total idiot in order to for the plot to go forward. One of the most awkward scenes has Simon telling a series of black jokes at a large dinner in which he is the only white person. Some of the jokes are funny, but they seem wildly out of place. Another awkward scene has Percy and Simon squaring off in a strange go-kart race. The race, like Simon's repertoire of black jokes, doesn't really fit the story or the characters. While some of the jokes in the film work, others fall flat. Later, the film lurches from silliness to sugar-coated sentimentality, and that part of the film doesn't really work any better. The problem is I just can't buy into the characters, particularly Percy and Simon acting the way they did in the story. It seemed they were out of character about half of the time.
This isn't a particularly bad movie, and it isn't a good one either. The acting is actually pretty good. It is the screenplay which falters. I was particularly surprised by Ashton Kutcher's acting. He never really impressed me before, but he's actually a decent comic actor. Nevertheless, I can't recommend this movie. It is just too mediocre. In the first place, the film doesn't aim high enough. In the second place, it falls short of that unambitious goal. This film rates a C.
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