Our Family Wedding (PG-13)
Half a star out of four
One of the first signs that old Hollywood was getting it and trying to be hip was back in 1967 with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Arriving in the wake of the Summer of Love, it took what was and still kind of is a taboo subject (interracial romance) and turned it into an enlightening and entertaining piece of art.
In 40-plus years, many have duplicated that film's premise, but not a single one of them has come close to matching its intellect, warmth and spirit and "Our Family Wedding" just might be the worst of the lot.
More resembling an overlong sitcom pilot than feature film, the movie can never decide whether it wants to be charming and funny or spastic and inane, and it is this constant and jarring shift in tone that ultimately sinks it.
In all fairness to director Rick Famuyiwa and his two co-writers, they started out on the right foot. Instead of giving us the threadbare black vs. white setup, they made one of the romantic leads Hispanic and cast two immensely popular TV stars as the lovebirds.
Far more radiant than she ever is in "Ugly Betty," America Ferrera stars as Lucia, a sweet yet vacillating young woman who is deathly afraid to offend anyone. She hasn't told her family that she's dropped out of law school and intends to marry Marcus (Lance Gross, "House of Payne"), a doctor planning to relocate to Laos. Marcus is bright, funny, handsome and well-to-do, but he's also black. Lucia knows her mom and sister will be cool with it, but her father Miguel will completely freak out.
In a role that would normally go to George Lopez, Carlos Mencia plays Miguel, a tow-truck company owner who immediately locks horns with father-of-the-groom Brad (Forest Whitaker), a divorced swinger and silken-voiced radio DJ.
For the duration, the two alpha males bicker, spat, bellow and tussle with each other to such a degree, every other character in the movie becomes an incidental afterthought. Even though both men profess their unflinching love for their respective children, neither is beyond using them as pawns (or targets) in order to mark their metaphorical turf. For Mencia, this kind of behavior comes naturally, but for the Oscar-winning Whitaker, an actor generally blessed with nuance and grace, it is extremely ill-fitting. This is the type of role Martin Lawrence might have even turned down.
When not wading hip-deep in putrid sentiment, the filmmakers include action sequences accompanied with lung-crunching screaming matches that have the same effect as fingers across a chalkboard or an ice-pick through the ear. They also manage to wedge in a plethora of negative racial stereotypes and some bathroom vulgarity that reaches its nadir with a goat downing a handful of Viagra pills.
Everybody appearing in this movie deserves better and not a one of their careers will benefit from it. "Our Family Wedding" is the early front-runner for worst film of 2010 and it will be awfully hard for another to match its lowly achievements. (Fox Searchlight)