Written by David Ronn & Jay Scherick and Peter Tolan
Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan
Running Time: 1:45
for sex-related humor.
Guess Who was a decent movie that had some laughs, but was too schmaltzy to be completely entertaining.
Simon is white. Teresa is black. They're dating. Simon quits his job for a reason he decides not to share with Teresa. This happens the day before Simon and Teresa are going to her parents' house for her parents 25th wedding anniversary/vow renewal. Teresa never told her parents that she was dating a white guy, which isn't a big deal to her mom, but to her father Percy, it's a whole other story. Needless to say, Percy doesn't trust Simon with his daughter, which is based not solely on his whiteness. Simon tries to impress Percy but always seems to get into trouble. Hijinks ensue and everyone gets sad/angry/happy and all live happily every after.
Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac are generally likeable guys. I'm not part of the Ashton backlash group yet, so in these kinds of comedies I enjoy his goofiness. Bernie Mac is one of those comedians where if you just let him go off, he'll make things funny. Unfortunately in Guess Who the writers/director/actors all decided this would be a good time to have them grow up. Watching Kutcher with a shorter haircut and a real job, dealing with serious issues, isn't a whole lot of fun. The fact that they kept his reason for quitting silent until the end was also annoying, and when the reason comes out it's a little bit of a letdown, especially based on the way the quitting scene played out early on. One would think he would have been angrier, instead of wanting to go and get his job back. I'm not saying it's not right for Kutcher to want to grow as an actor, and in fact in The Butterfly Effect he did a fairly good job in an underrated movie. But in what is supposed to be a comedy, reigning him in wasn't the best idea. Then you have Bernie Mac, a guy who can make you laugh out loud just by looking at you the right way. He's one of those people that when he is allowed to go off and rant and rave on any topic under the sun, he can be funny. But you stick him in the role of protective father, and he has to be more serious and reserved. So you walk into this movie hoping for a great laugh out loud comedy and instead you get a film that has a few laughs, but decides to play it safe.
For those of you who have seen the film and know about the scene at the dinner table where Simon tells off-color jokes, you may be wondering if the movie really played it safe. And I say it did because that moment wasn't particularly funny nor was it handled very well. First of all, it was nonsensical. Why on Earth would anyone want to have a white guy, in a conversation that had already become racially charged, tell black jokes? Did anyone think it would end well? The entire scene made the audience cringe. So if they weren't going to play up the humor angle, they could have used it to discuss race relations, but instead copped out and had people get angry and walk away. Then a sweet little scene between Simon and Teresa followed and it was all over.
I never did figure out what the underlying idea was behind Guess Who. Was it supposed to be an all out comedy? Was it supposed to be a serious film with light moments? Back in the late 60s when the film this one is very, very roughly based on, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner touched on some very serious issues. A white woman dating a black man in that day and age was very taboo and you had some of the greatest actors of the era involved making the movie take on that much more weight. I understand Guess Who is not trying to be that kind of movie, especially with the cast involved, but it was made for a reason. If they had wanted to make a fish out of water story, they could have gone any number of ways, but they wanted a white boy to visit a black family and see what happened. Yet for all the talk about Simon being white, at no point was there ever any real issue with it. A couple of quick jokes by new characters and then everyone was OK. They kept talking about it like it was a big deal, but they never showed that it was a big deal, especially when Percy actually said he didn't trust Simon and was proven right. The whole black/white angle had almost nothing to do with the movie. So why have that dynamic in there if you're not going to do anything with it? Beyond the dinner table jokes sequence, race issues were never dealt with, just normal everyday family issues.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Guess Who was a so-so film that started something with its premise, but never followed through. All that would have been fine if it was funny, but beyond a few superficial laughs, it was a movie with two talented and funny actors who were kept on a short leash and never allowed to be the funny men we all know they can be.
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