***1/2 (out of 5)
March 25, 2005
Bernie Mac as PERCY JONES
Ashton Kutcher as SIMON GREEN
Zoe Saldana as THERESA JONES
Judith Scott as MARILYN JONES
Studio: Sony Pictures
Directed by: Kevin Rodney Sullivan
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The country can breathe a sigh of relief to know that “Guess Who” is more about Bernie Mac than Ashton Kutcher. It’s actually refreshing to see a talented man like Mac get the lead roles now with hacks like Kutcher playing second fiddle.
Even when he’s not in the scene, Mac takes command of the movie while Kutcher slops his way through this film as a clean-cut Keanu Reeves. Fortunately the rest of the cast successfully carries him along. Without them, this might have been as excruciating as “The Butterfly Effect.”
In case you haven’t put two and two together, this film is a remake of the classic drama “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with the racial roles reversed. I remember seeing trailers for this a while back and thinking it could really be awful. But again, Bernie Mac saves the day.
There’s little about this film that resembles the original, except the fish-out-of-water story with heightened racial sensitivities. In fact, rather than being like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” this is more like “Meet the Parents, and the Parents are Black.”
In this modernized version, Ashton Kutcher plays Simon Green, a young financial whiz who is on his way up the investment company food chain. He’s engaged to Theresa (Zoe Saldana), who happens to be black. Theresa is bringing Simon to her parents’ home for the weekend. Of course, she never mentioned to her father that Simon was white. You’d think people would be over these things, but apparently not everyone is.
Theresa’s father Percy (Mac) just can’t accept the fact that his daughter’s boyfriend is white. Of course, the film isn’t just about racial tensions. It also hits on all the general general issues a father is going to have with any young man – black or white – dating his daughter. No matter what he does, Simon just can’t win. However, as they are forced to spend time together, they are also forced to deal with their problems.
I’ve never liked it when studios retool classic films. For example, I thought “The Manchurian Candidate” was a travesty, mainly because they updated the story into modern stupidity. But I have to admit that this role reversal of a black girl bringing a white boy home was a stroke of genius. In these all-too politically correct times, “Guess Who” is able to show that the blade of racism can cut both ways.
The film exposes the hypocrisy that has arisen from political correctness. Sure, my 82-year-old grandfather would never take things well if my sister or cousin were to marry a black man (or if I had married a black girl, for that matter). But there are plenty of African American families that would have a problem with their kids marrying out of their race. It’s silly, I know, but it is an attitude that is not uncommon for either race.
Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan said he took the job directing this film because “I have a 12-and-a-half-year-old daughter who’s beautiful, and I’m sure she’s going to come home one day with some Lithuanian, Samoan, punk-rock drummer dude, and I thought if I did this movie I’d be able to work out my issues before that day comes.” (This quote came from IMDb, so forgive me if it is inaccurate.) What is uplifting about this view is that Sullivan is a big enough person that he (like everyone else in this world, including me and you) has their own biases and prejudices. The color of your skin does not make you immune.
But let’s not make this film more than it is. “Guess Who” is not out to change the world. It’s really just out to make you laugh.