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Guess Who

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jan
Guess Who

from Film Forum, 03/31/05

What? Bernie Mac as a sarcastic family man? Sounds like the big screen version of The Bernie Mac Show.

In fact, it's a comedy called Guess Who, directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, and starring Ashton Kutcher as the white boy who wants to date Mac's daughter. As you would probably guess, it's this week's box office champion.

But wait, there's more. The film is also a remake of the classic race-relations comedy Guess Who's Coming To Dinner—that is, if you use the word "remake" very loosely.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) isn't the only critic to say the film doesn't stand up to its inspiration. "While Mac is quite funny, it goes without saying that the troika of Mac, Kutcher and [Judith] Scott are no Tracy, Poitier and Hepburn. The film, with its love-is-colorblind message, has its moments, but most of its broad comedy falls flat."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says the characters "show that forming and keeping a loving relationship is a process that does not necessarily get easier with time—be it black, white, or mixed. The film hits its stride when it settles down and shows how the characters work to keep their love alive and their relationship strong. Kutcher and Mac have decent chemistry that could have been more fully exploited. Instead, the filmmakers continue to fall back upon time tested slapstick and superficial situational humor."

Dr. Kenneth R. Morefield (Christian Spotlight) finds that the film is actually closer in style and substance to a much more recent comedy. "If Guess Who had had the courage to actually remake Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, it might have been one of those rare remakes that improved on the original. The problem, though, is that despite its title, Guess Who is not a remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. It is a remake of Meet the Parents. And there is no discernible reasons why we need another version of that film."

He's not the only one to make that connection. Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) says, "The film's first act has more in common with Meet the Parents than the sophisticated classic, diving headfirst into Ben Stiller territory." But Lyon finds some merit: "Guess Who does gain surprising footing . . . when it gets serious about the issues of race and marriage. It assaults us with inappropriate joking, but in doing so reminds us that racism is not a dead issue, even in our modern culture, even in an Ashton Kutcher/Bernie Mac buddy comedy. We're suddenly aware again of how painful words and attitudes can feel."

This mixed-race comedy is getting mixed reviews in the mainstream press.