Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
When you clear away about a half the extraneous cast members who were put in this film primarily for comic relief, JUMPING THE BROOM is actually quite a strong African-American melodrama, featuring some of the finest actors of a couple of generations and a beautiful setting in which they can rip each other apart before coming back together. The core of the film is a wedding on Martha's Vineyard between a handsome couple named Sabrina and Jason (Paula Patton and Laz Alonso). Although Jason has apparently met Sabrina's parents (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell as Mrs. and Mr. Watson) prior to the wedding, somehow Jason has managed to hide his mother (Loretta Devine as Mrs. Taylor) from his bride to be. Already things are off to a bad start.
The story is simple. The Watsons are rich and own a compound on the Vineyard. Bassett is convinced Mitchell is cheating on her, although the family is loaded with secrets, all of which are revealed in this long weekend surrounding the wedding. Meanwhile, Mrs. Taylor and some of her close friends and family are less well off, but make the journey from their low-paying lives to attend the ceremony, allowing the culture and class war to begin. And that's really all you need to know. Things get silly, thanks in large part of the Taylor party, which includes Mike Epps, DeRay Davis and Tyler Perry favorite Tasha Smith.
The Watsons supply most of the film's dramatic moments, and I have to admit, seeing such great theater vets like Bassett, Mitchell and Valarie Pettiford (as Bassett's free-spirited sister) get a chance to unleash their dramatic fury on each other. Director Salim Akil (creator of such TV shows as "The Game," "Girlfriends" and "Soul Food") has a flare for letting the emotions take control of a scene; I'm not as impressed with his handling of comedy, which seems to consist of letting Epps do and say whatever he wants, whether it's funny or not. The exception to this is the weird presence of Julie Bowen ("Modern Family") as wedding planner Amy, who is as aware as anyone that she is the only white person at this event (or in this movie), and rather than cower, she cuts loose with a string of very funny observations about those around her.
JUMPING THE BROOM doesn't break any new ground in black cinema, but there is a healthy discussion and consideration for culture and tradition. There aren't too many surprises to be had in the plot either. But sometimes it's enough to let great actors (and a few lesser ones) just do their thing, even if some of what they're saying and doing is contrived and predictable. I'm not making allowances or apologies for the film's shortcomings. But there's more than enough substance here to blow just about any Tyler Perry movie out of the water. I think that's saying something.
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