Saturday, March 26, 2005
Get me an air flight bag -- quick!-- putrid is the only word to describe it, and one question:
Review: 'Guess Who' Is Painful to Watch
MyWay.com = AP
Email this Story - [NO, don't you dare!]
Mar 25, 1:51 PM (ET)
By CHRISTY LEMIRE
Sidney Poitier never would have fallen on his butt while pulling luggage from a taxicab trunk. And he never would have been caught romping on a bed in red clingy lingerie, then awkwardly explaining: "I'm not a cross-dresser, just for the record."
Ashton Kutcher is called upon for these embarrassing antics and countless others in "Guess Who," a comic re-envisioning of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" with a twist in the racial dynamic.
Wisely, it's not intended as a straight remake of the 1967 classic, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won two, including best actress for Katharine Hepburn. That much is clear from the names above the title: fellow Fox TV comedians Kutcher ("That '70s Show") and Bernie Mac, doing a tougher version of his tough-love "Bernie Mac Show" persona.
But the very idea of taking something important and insightful and mucking it up for the sake of cheap laughs and commerce seems cynical. It's also disheartening. Sitting through it, however, is a fresh torture all its own, and it only serves as a reminder of how elegantly searing the original was.
Poitier had a singular class and grace as Dr. John Prentice when he came to dinner and met his astonished white girlfriend's parents (Hepburn and Spencer Tracy - in his last role). The talks they had about the potential problems facing an interracial couple were necessary and relevant for the times.
When Kutcher, as the up-and-coming, jittery and white stockbroker Simon Green, meets the astonished parents of his black girlfriend, Theresa (the lovely Zoe Saldana), the ensuing dinner discussion approaches the topic of race only through the uncomfortable telling of black jokes. There's also a sitcommy sequence in which Simon and Mac's character, the overprotective Percy Jones, take a car ride together and songs like "Ebony and Ivory" pop up on the radio.
These moments are mere hiatuses from the film's main purpose: silly slapstick comedy, at which Kutcher has always been adept. Simon and Percy race go-carts together and end up stranded in the middle of traffic. Simon and Percy sleep in the same bed (because Percy doesn't want Simon sneaking to see his daughter in the middle of the night) and end up squirming and snoring all over each other. Simon and Percy do the tango. The list goes on.
The film from director Kevin Rodney Sullivan ("How Stella Got Her Groove Back,""Barbershop 2") and screenwriters David Ronn, Jay Scherick and Peter Tolan offers sight gags, one after another, leading nowhere.
And whereas Stanley Kramer's original built tension toward its conclusion - will they or won't they end up together? - "Guess Who" builds to that trite-and-true romantic comedy climax: a dash to the airport to salvage the relationship, though here it's a train station, followed by that other familiar convention, a wedding, though here it's Theresa's parents (Mac and Judith Scott) renewing their vows on their 25th anniversary.
Kutcher is then called upon to do something else Sidney Poitier never would have done - and in the process must step into the shoes of another formidable black man - when he nervously warbles the Lou Rawls love song "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine."
The moment presumably is intended to be poignant, but like nearly everything else about "Guess Who," it merely ends up being painful to watch.
"Guess Who," a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for sex related humor. Running time: 103 minutes [TOO LONG! Who greenlighted this? Why? Why? Why??????? ] One and a half stars out of four.