Guess Who (2005) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and sexual references
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Bernie Mac, Zoe Saldana, Judith Scott, Kellee Stewart
Director: Kevin Rodney Sullivan
Screenplay: David Ronn, Jay Scherick, Peter Tolan
Review published March 31, 2005
A remake (of sorts) of the 1967 classic comedy, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, except with the races reversed. While the original film had the breaking of racial stereotypes in mind, this updated version has it more in mind to have fun with them for the sake of the comedy. As Black/white relationships aren't nearly as taboo today as they were in the 1960s, the social commentary of the original is mostly absent here, although it does depict some of the difficulties that are still prevalent for interracial couples, especially for parents who have always envisioned the type of man they want their daughters to marry.
Ashton Kutcher (The Butterfly Effect, My Boss's Daughter) stars as Simon Green, a yuppie white guy who has just quit his cushy job for personal reasons, just before he is to meet the parents of his Black girlfriend, Theresa (Zoe Saldana, The Terminal). Being currently jobless is bad enough, but Simon also has to deal with the fact that Theresa has neglected to tell her folks what race he is. While both parents are surprised, it is Theresa's father, Percy (Bernie Mac, Ocean's Twelve), which has the most difficult time with it. It's not the fact that Simon is white he doesn't like per se, it's the fact that he doesn't fit in with the type of son-in-law he always wanted his daughter to marry -- a successful, athletic Denzel Washington type. From the get-go, Simon and Percy start off on the wrong foot, and things get progressively worse.
Guess Who isn't the freshest or funniest Meet the Parents style movie out there, but it does have a handful of scenes that are very well handled, particularly in the relationship between Simon and Theresa, mostly because Kutcher and Saldana give terrific, realistic performances. Bernie Mac plays his character mostly for laughs, and does get the lion's share of the film's comedic moments, so if you're a fan, he probably won't disappoint. It's not the most intelligent premise for a movie, but it is smartly handled, and despite the sometimes-broad humor normally associated with Kutcher and Mac, only a handful of gags border on contrivance.
It's not a perfect film, by any means. Some of the humor does encroach into stereotypes, poking fun at both races in a way that more sensitive viewers may find objectionable. A few of the comedic scenes are very obvious, such as when Simon is telling Black jokes around the dinner table, and you just know one of them is going to go a step too far and upset everyone. Many other scenes also have an air of familiarity (men cuddling in bed, the couple sneaking out of the house, etc.), to the detriment of the overall interest value.
I suppose the only real surprises to be found come from the fact that there are some poignant dramatic scenes, delivered by actors that aren't exactly known for doing them. Although not a long film at 105 minutes, it does get creaky at times from the lack of freshness, and perhaps a little trimming would have helped. Still, when things click, Guess Who can be quite arresting, enough to make this a worthwhile viewing for fans of situational family comedies and for the performances of the film's stars.
©2005 Vince Leo