Release Date: March 12, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content and strong language.)
Run Time: 101 min.
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Cast: Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King, Lance Gross, Diana-Maria Riva, Lupe Ontiveros
Urban comedy-dramas (popularized by Tyler Perry)—many of which revolve around extended families—have become a niche staple of the spring and fall movie seasons. Our Family Wedding is another addition to this growing sub-genre, and it most certainly has to rank among the worst.
Films that cater to this demographic often go over-the-top, which is all well-and-good as that audience has traditionally responded to a heightened tone. This new entry, however, disappoints even the most basic fundamental expectations by committing the worst offense possible: it falls completely flat.
Our Family Wedding takes the typically broad dramedy strokes and throws in an interracial clash for good measure, but then cooks up something surprisingly bland. Marcus Boyd is African-American and Lucia Ramierz is a young Latina (Lance Gross and America Ferrera, respectively). The fact that they're dating and living together has been kept secret from their parents (not to say anything of their intention to marry), so when the couple drops the wedding bomb at an inaugural family meet-and-greet, the reaction is instantly hysterical—especially for the Ramierz clan that has long held the dream of their daughter marrying a nice Catholic Latino.
Complicating matters is that earlier the same day, Lucia's dad Miguel (Carlos Mencina) towed the illegally-parked sports car belonging to Marcus' wealthy dad Brad (Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker), even in the face of Brad's protest—a completely improbable confrontation fueled by racially-tinged epithets. Now just a few hours later not only do they find their progeny dating, but they're also getting married! Aye yai yai! Insults fly, stereotypes are thrown, and comedy allegedly ensues. Except that it doesn't.
What follows is nothing more than a sitcom-level take on a mixed-minority marriage. A bad sitcom, I might add. It gets kuh-RAAA-zee up in there. Old-fashioned dad Miguel goes loco, counterpart Brad is bull-headedly unreasonable, and the idyllic young love between Marcus and Lucia begins to buckle under the strain. Oh no they didn't! Oh yes, they did.
The film fails at every level—script, direction, ensemble, and overall execution. You'd at least expect such lunacy to have a manic energy to it, but it doesn't. At all. Quite the opposite, in fact, as it plods along barely registering a pulse. Banter is forced, actors merely play parts but never create characters (just caricatures), and its by-the-numbers story is so clearly predictable that you're five steps ahead of the movie at all times, prophetically checking off each plot point before the film does.
The filmmaking lacks any hint of artistry; shot compositions are plain, coverage is generic, and editing isn't nearly tight enough. Simply put, it's lazy. This technical sloppiness may not register on a conscious level to the average moviegoer, but collectively they are the reasons why audiences will find this slog to be utterly tedious and eventually try their patience.
Director Rick Famuyiwa is no stranger to this brand of melodrama, having directed previous (though modest) hits Brown Sugar and The Wood, but the lack of inspiration here is palpable. Old, tired jokes about marriage are bogged down by old, tired jokes about race, both of which are eventually overcome by old, tired affirmations about both. The differences that kept these families apart will eventually be the ones they celebrate together. Shocker.
Propping up familiar observations are lame gags that grow exponentially preposterous, from a bathroom plumbing mishap to a nonsensical cake fight in a wedding store to—I kid you not—a Viagra-eating goat that humps a man up against a wall while under the influence. It's embarrassing how desperate this movie is.
As the young couple, America Ferrera (TV's Ugly Betty) and Lance Gross create a sweet chemistry in spite of the material, but everyone else seems as if they're barely trying. Forest Whitaker and Regina King are two proven talents apparently content with collecting an easy check, while Carlos Mencina displays a surprising lack of energy for someone who's made a career off of a crazy, offensive persona. This feel-good material is way out of his comfort zone, and it shows. As Lucia's mother, Diana-Maria Riva is the only person actually investing something of herself here—but everything else is working against her.
Yet even if the ensemble had made a more earnest effort, the formulaic material still would've betrayed them. Cultures collide, old traditions die hard, and the couple comes to question if they're truly in love—obligatory conflicts made worse by the fact that they're based in stupidity rather than credibility.
As a result, it's no surprise when meaningful heart-to-hearts lead to change and healing, people come to their senses and recognize the error of their ways, the couple reunites, the marriage is back on, and even the parents find their stagnant love lives renewed by the spark of romance. Cue that '70s R&B soundtrack, and let's get this wedding party started!
Simple ambitions, to be sure, but not bad ones; it's the script's perfunctory arc mixed with Famuyiwa's lethargic direction that make it a watch-checking bore. My advice: pre-emptively annul any plans you have to engage Our Family Wedding. (See—now it's even got me making bad jokes!)
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Alcoholic drinks occasionally consumed. Brad and Miguel get drunk at a dance club and subsequently let loose.
- Language/Profanity: Occasional profanities of the PG-13 variety. One "F" word (delivered to a boy, no less).
- Sexual Content/Nudity: An unmarried couple is living together. Sex is discussed on a few occasions; not in detail, but in ways that are cavalier and impure. Suggestive dancing in a nightclub. A suggestive reference to a vibrator. A couple gets sexually frisky in a car. A goat eats Viagra and tries to have sex with a man's leg.
- Violence: None.
Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla. He is also cohost of "Steelehouse Podcast," along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture.
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