Stumbling to the Altar: Interracial Marriage Comedy Leaves Both Lawns Bare

City Pulse | March 8, 2010
Stumbling to the Altar

Interracial Marriage Comedy Leaves Both Lawns Bare

Our Family Wedding

By Cole Smithey

Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa's version of interracial marriage is about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. America Ferrara plays Latin hottie Lucia Ramirez to Lance Gross's immaculate picture of moneyed African American perfection. The wedding-bound couple head home to Los Angeles to break the news to their unprepared, and only somewhat racist patriarchs, played by Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia. Apparently unfamiliar with the thin-ice romantic comedy genre he skates, the filmmaker relies on unmotivated slapstick set pieces that perpetually fizzle out.

Famuyiwa has put together a competent cast whose nearly developed characters speak lines like, "Once you go black, your credit goes bad." Such stereotypical attitudes are flaunted with a graceless pedestrian sensibility that conflicts with the upper class trappings that both households wear with throwaway assurance. Forest Whitaker's Brad Boyd is a super suave radio announcer whose silken voice attracts women to him like flies at the nightclubs he frequents with an open invitation to "trouble"--namely women young enough to be his daughter. Still, Brad has a special place in his heart for his attorney and longtime pal Angela (Regina King), who helped raise his son Lance after the break-up of his marriage. But neither Whitaker or King have the comic chops to incite more than a momentary chuckle here and there.

The elephant in the room is Carlos Mencia, whose popular television show "Mind of Mencia" proved his brilliant sense of race-inspired physical comedy. As the patriarch of Lucia's family, Mencia's Miguel Rameriez is a family man with a strong sense of tradition and just enough humility to make you like him as a comic character. While the rest of the cast seem under-directed to the point of distraction, Mencia anchors his scenes with droll timing that sporadically brings the film's would-be humorous tone up to pitch. Still, Mencia never gets to let rip the way he consistently did on his television show. You can't help but wonder if the film would have been better had Mencia taken a shot at doctoring the script.

The talented Anjelah Johnson is also squandered. As Lucia's tomboy sister Izzy, Johnson emits an undercurrent of lesbian languor that the director fails to explore. She works at her dad's tow-truck shop and has a habit of stealing scenes from their periphery. Izzy is the one character who seems fully formed, and as such commands an exclusive brand of audience curiosity that keeps you wanting to see her interact more. When Izzy gets shoehorned into the promise of a straight relationship, it feels like the filmmaker is squeezing a square peg into a round hole.

"Our Family Wedding" wants to show how two racially divergent families can open up to one another's culture via the union of their romantically committed offspring. The closest the film comes to achieving its elusive goal is during a softball game where athletic enjoyment supersedes prejudice. It's also the one time in the film where intellectual and physical humor work together in a balance of right and left brain equality. The film's mantra, "Our marriage, their wedding," establishes the agreed-upon parameters of the proceedings. What it misses thematically is how that support system will function after the last wedding party balloon has popped. Ideally, "Our Family Wedding" would be the kind of romantic comedy that a Korean guy could take his Arab fiancée to see so they could laugh and imagine how their untraditional union could last. Unfortunately, this isn't that movie.

(Fox Searchlight Pictures) Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief strong language. 101 mins. (C) Two Stars out of 5--no halves)
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