LITTLE ROCK Jumping the Broom is a movie you’ve seen many times before. It’s simply Romeo and Juliet with a Hollywood ending, two incompatible families drawn into proximity by the all-conquering love of young folks. From the beginning you know how the film is going to turn out; you can only hope for a few grace notes sprinkled in with the life lessons and the groaning, compounded comeuppances delivered to characters in need of moral correction. Still, I haven’t enjoyed an average movie as much as I enjoyed this one in a while, so perhaps it’s better to accentuate the positive.
And the most positive thing about Jumping the Broom might well be its faith in the possibility of things working out for the best, despite the foibles of us puny humans. Despite itself, themovie is a qualified success, because of small things done well by a professional cast of supporting players who understand what’s expected of them and never seem to condescend to the movie.
In particular, Mike Epps is very good here in a small role that requires him to round out his trademark jive with something like wisdom. I’ve always enjoyed seeing Epps in movies and often thought that he had more to offer than wisecracks. I was right, Mike Epps can do gravitas too, and he wears it lightly. Now all he needs is for someone to put him in a grownup movie.
Jumping the Broom is not quite that grown-up movie, but at least it realizes adult life is a complicated thing and it deserves credit for at least trying to address prickly class issues within the black community. (Spike Lee tried that with his transgressive musical School Daze in 1988 and was generally slapped down by critics and pundits, some of whom misconstrued the movie’s social critique.) The divide here is between “boo-gee” (bourgeois) people of color and ghetto blacks.
It’s basically about the wedding of two handsome but insubstantial people. Rich girl Sabrina (Paula Patton) is the well-to-do bride; she’s got a law degree and will soon be leaving for some vague high-powered job in China. Groom Jason (Laz Alonso) is an investment banker with Goldman-Sachs, a “bootstrapper” (as one character, not admiringly, puts it) from Brooklyn whose mother (Loretta Devine) is a thin-skinned postal worker.His other relatives, including the uncle played by Epps, are all more or less stereotypical urban types, who if they weren’t eventually revealed to have hearts of gold might be offensive.
Meanwhile, Sabrina’s clan - headquartered on Martha’s Vineyard - consists of a strong-willed, demanding andoccasionally French-speaking mother (Angela Bassett) who barks orders at the poor wedding planner (Julie Bowen) and suspects her dashing business mogul husband (a delightful Brian Stokes Mitchell, channeling Barack Obama and Andrew Young) of philandering. There’s also saucy, flighty aunt Geneva (Valarie Pettiford), who swoops in to deliver a not entirely appropriate rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and to dredge up an old family secret.
It’s fun to watch this thoroughly professional cast put through some predictable paces, but the putative leads tend to get lost in the hubbub. Jason is a cipher throughout; his prime virtues seems to be bland handsomeness and upward mobility. Sabrina, on the other hand, is at least given a party girl past - although she has made a pact with God to remain celibate until after marriage.
Patton seems never to find a rhythm for the role - she’s both too old and the writers have done her no favors by making the character sort of a simpleton. In her best moments, she brings a kind of Sandra Bullock-style gameness to the proceedings, but too often she just seems awkward.
The film is produced by the megachurch minister T.D. Jakes (who has a small, lamentable role), but it’s not overbearing in the way some faith-based movies are. Director Salim Akil handles the visuals well, with an unflashy competence that bespeaks his career in television. Jumping the Broom is neither memorable nor groundbreaking, but it’s good-natured enough. It’s an above average entertainment.
Jumping the Broom 86 Cast: Paula Patton, Mike Epps, Angela Bassett, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine, Julie Bowen Director: Salim Akil Rated: PG-13 (adult content, strong language) Running time: 108 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 05/06/2011
Print Headline: REVIEW Jumping the Broom