I’ve always been extremely open-minded when it comes to race. I don’t look twice when I see interracial couples walking down the street; in fact, I’ve been in several interracial relationships myself. Sadly, there are still some people who judge others by their race instead of who they are as a person. While Guess Who (which is loosely based on the classic, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner) is billed to be making a statement on this matter, it ends up being just another typical romantic comedy.
The movie begins by introducing us to Theresa Jones (Zoe Saldana) and her fiancé Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher). Theresa decides to bring Simon home to meet her parents during the weekend that they renew their vows, but when they arrive, Theresa’s father Percy (Bernie Mac) is less than thrilled to find out that Simon is white. Percy immediately has a grudge against Simon, and he goes to several lengths to prove to Theresa that Simon isn’t a suitable fiancé. Finally, after Percy runs a background check against him, it’s revealed that Simon has lied to Theresa and the family about losing his job back in New York. Theresa is enraged, and because of Percy’s meddling, so is his wife, Marilyn (Judith Scott). With both women angry at the men, the only choice is for Percy and Simon to overcome their differences and try to make things right- or else no vows will end up being exchanged.
Though Ashton Kutcher (That 70’s Show, Punk’D) originally drew my attention to the movie, Bernie Mac (The Bernie Mac Show, The Original Kings Of Comedy) is definitely the star of the film. He plays the character of Percy perfectly; at times being nothing more than an overbearing and loving father and at other times being a sarcastic bigot. Still, Kutcher does a wonderful job of presenting Simon as both affable and earnest; he’s the hero that you want to root for. Kutcher and Mac have wonderful chemistry together; they play off each other well in the comedic scenes and the tension between them feels real in the more heated scenes. Both simply outshine Zoe Saldana (Center Stage, Drumline, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl); whose performance isn’t bad by any means, but certainly isn’t very memorable. Any other actress could’ve taken Saldana’s part in the movie, and perhaps would’ve created a more in-depth character.
The movie as a whole is fairly predictable. It’s easy to see where things are going, even at the climax of the film. The only surprising part may have been the ending, when Simon reveals the actual reason for quitting his job, though I might have been the only one who didn’t see it coming earlier. Still, the movie delivers in the laughs department. Once again, Mac creates the majority of the jokes, but Kutcher and Saldana also have quite a few funny scenes as well. One particular scene in the movie, where Simon and the Jones family are having dinner and Percy baits Simon into telling their family a few “black jokes” is pretty hysterical (and not the least bit offensive).
I assumed that the movie would be making a statement against racism, though the film actually doesn’t really make a big stand against it. Sure, by the end of the movie, Percy comes to terms with the fact that Simon’s race doesn’t matter, but most topics about racism are simply dusted over in the film. True, the movie is a comedy, but it seems as though about halfway through it’s forgotten that the tension between Percy and Simon was originally about race, and more focus is put on a father’s personal vendetta against his soon to be son-in-law.
Obviously the writers (William Rose, David Ronn) believed they were being unique when they decided to have a black girl bring home a white guy (as most TV shows/movies have it the other way around), but the movie is still rampant with ignorant stereotypes. I remember laughing at the sheer stupidity of a genuine conversation that Theresa has with her sister about what it’s like to date a white guy. I was pleased about the fact that Percy seemed to be the only one in the family that had an issue with Simon’s race, but the movie still leans towards ignorance at times.
All in all, Guess Who is a typical romantic comedy. Director Kenny Rodney Sullivan (Barbershop 2: Back in Business, How Stella Got Her Grove Back) may have dropped the ball in making a point about racism, but he did craft a light film worth a couple of laughs.