America Ferrera, Forest Whitaker, Carlos Mencia, Regina King & Lance Gross
Rick Famuyiwa, Malcolm Spellman, Wayne Conley
Much like another film opening this weekend, She's Out of Your League, helmer Rick Famuyiwa's Our Family Wedding benefits tremendously from a winning cast and an abundance of sweetness that work together to create a film that often transcends its broad humor, hyperactive culture clashes and wealth of ethnic stereotypes that would have likely trashed virtually any other film. Unlike She's Out of Your League, however, the film's sweetness and winning cast can't quite compensate enough to offer the film a hearty recommendation.
Our Family Wedding follows the African-American Marcus (Lance Gross) and Mexican-American Lucia (America Ferrera), a pair of recent college grads who've returned home to share the news of their pending nuptials with their respective families. Unfortunately, their families have already been "introduced" to one another when his father, radio talk show host Brad Boyd (Forest Whitaker), runs afoul of a tow truck driver, her father (Carlos Mencia), after leaving his car parked downtown overnight.
What began as a vision of a small wedding quickly becomes a war for wedding supremacy between the two very competitive fathers, as Marcus and Lucia adopt a "Our marriage, their wedding" attitude and the small wedding becomes a lavish affair in quick order.
Do you see where this is going?
Of course you do.
It's difficult to determine with any certainty just how or why a film directed by the same guy who shot Brown Sugar and The Wood could turn out so badly, but the blame does, indeed, seem to rest squarely on the shoulders of Rick Famuyiwa, who also co-wrote the script with Malcolm Spellman and Wayne Conley. While Famuyiwa's two other films did a nice job of portraying African-American culture, his attempts here at blending two cultures falls flat and, even worse for a comedy, is startlingly unfunny.
It's not the fault of the cast. That much I know. America Ferrera, as the bride-to-be struggling to be the sparkling presence between the two sides, is her usual dazzling self and gives the film a solid zest and energy even when the dialogue itself is immensely flat. As her future husband, Lance Gross is generally called upon to be not much more than a quiet, steady presence and he does so quite nicely. The two performers are lovely together and project a natural, believable chemistry.
While Forest Whitaker has never been known for his ability to pick scripts, bouncing between award-worthy and straight-to-video with equal enthusiasm, his presence here is definitely a plus as he proves to be a nice counterbalance to the more manic Carlos Mencia. Anna Maria Horsford, Shannyn Sossamon and Anjelah Johnson all have nice turns in supporting roles.
It's difficult to fathom that this was the best film Famuyiwa and crew could come up with in a year in which the United States has its first black president that we couldn't end up with a more insightful or even edgy film on culture clash and race relations than Our Family Wedding. Weren't we seeing films like this 20 years ago?
Tech credits are fine across the board, most notably Julio Macat's bright and lively camera work that gives the film an energy all its own. Original music from Transcenders is also a huge plus, a nice complement that calms the film down on more than one occasion.
Our Family Wedding will likely appeal to the Tyler Perry crowd, a crowd that cares more about message than method and family than cinematic focus. While the film is flawed, Our Family Wedding has a genuine heart and, of course, a feel good ending likely to please its target audience.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic