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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Loretta Devine, Angela Bassett, Julie Bowen, Lil' Romeo, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Meagan Good, Mike Epps, Paula Patton, T.D. Jakes
DIRECTED BY
Salim Akil
SCREENPLAY
Arlene Gibbs, Elizabeth Hunter
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
108 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
TriStar Pictures
DVD EXTRAS
Director and Cast Commentary;
You're Invited: Behind the Scenes;
Honoring the Tradition of Jumping the Broom
 "Jumping the Broom" Review 
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With his feature film directing debut, Salim Akil creates a winner with the smart and inspired Jumping the Broom. While it's doubtful, okay practically impossible, that the film will garner anywhere near the opening weekend box-office numbers of this weekend's Thor, here's hoping that audiences craving a well written, nicely acted, faith friendly and funny film will find their way into the multiplexes to reward TriStar Pictures for their own faith in this film and its marvelous ensemble cast.

If Tyler Perry were to create a film based solely upon story and the authentic development of characters, it would likely look much like Jumping the Broom, a film that avoids Perry's melodramatic tendencies and need for novelty and simply trusts that audiences will embrace the story, these characters and the wonderful words created by Arlene Gibbs based upon Elizabeth Hunter's story.

With his first film, Akil displays a remarkable touch for managing multiple characters and storylines while having a natural gift for pacing, dramatic build and rich, natural humor. Of course, it helps to be gifted with a stellar ensemble cast and Akil has quite the doozie here.

In the film, Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) is a hotshot attorney who comes from a rich family and nearly divorced parents (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell). Sabrina's engaged to Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso), a rising young broker who comes from humbler beginnings  and an overprotective, angry mother (Loretta Devine).

The film's seemingly odd title, Jumping the Broom, comes from a slave tradition where "jumping the broom" was the way that slaves could symbolize marriage during a time when marriages were not allowed. The Taylor's are in possession of such an ancestral broom, and when both families unite for the wedding on Martha's Vineyard it is the intent of Ms. Taylor that our soon to be wed couple will observe the tradition.

The Watson's ain't havin' it.

When you consider that two of the film's producers, Tracey Edmonds and mega-church preacher T.D. Jakes (Who also plays the film's preacher), openly consider Jumping the Broom to be a faith-based film, it should come as no surprise that faith does play a significant role throughout the film. Yet, again with tremendous confidence and integrity, Akil manages to make a faith-based film that truly feels like a film that mainstream audiences will easily appreciate. Akil also balances quite nicely the ways in which the Watsons and the Taylors are both similar and different, with class differences actually being more essential to the film than anything involving racial issues.

The cast is uniformly strong, with both Bassett and Devine playing headstrong and challenging characters. It is a true testimony to both actresses that you find it impossible to dislike either character, despite their occasionally aberrant behaviors. Paula Patton excels, as well, along with the always funny Mike Epps, Tasha Smith as Sabrina's best friend and Meagan Good as a bridesmaid. It's difficult, really, to single anyone out as this truly is an ensemble pic and that's how it works best.

Jumping the Broom is quite funny, perhaps a bit too funny at times, and there are moments when you can't help but wish Akil would show a bit more restraint where the two very much larger than life mother figures are involved. Fortunately, while the characters themselves are drawn broadly they are richly humanized by both Bassett and Devine. The film's final act does falter a bit, as if Akil wasn't 100% confident on winding the film down.

As seems to be nearly always true for African-American ensemble films, Jumping the Broom features a token Caucasian (Julie Bowen) who, in this case, doesn't feel remotely taken. In much the same way that James Marsden stole the show in the Chris Rock led Death at a Funeral remake, Julie Bowen steals most of her scenes as a white wedding planner who's clueless in a variety of ways.

Jumping the Broom is a beautifully photographed, pleasing to the eyes and ears film with an abundance of humor, a core center of heart and a tremendous amount of faith in God, in family and in each of its characters. While the film may not be as mighty as Thor, neither does it play as predictable as Something Borrowed.


© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic


 
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