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Guess Who (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Seven deleted scenes with optional director commentary (approx 10 mins). Gag reel (4 mins). Featurette: Love Is The Melody: The Making Of Guess Who (22 mins).

FROM the outset, Guess Who struggles to escape its feeling of over-familiarity given that it's a remake that also borrows heavily from several contemporary movies.

That it works at all is largely down to the enthusiasm of its cast, who set about making the most of a tired and mostly cliched scenario.

The film is principally based on the 1976 film, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, which found Spencer Tracy as the head of a white, middle-class suburban family, who struggles to cope when his daughter (Katharine Houghton) brings home her black fiancee (Sidney Poitier). It co-starred Katharine Hepburn.

The remake reverses the roles in a bid to keep things fresh, casting Bernie Mac as the head of a black, middle-class suburban family who similarly struggles to come to terms with the fact that his daughter (Zoe Saldana) intends to marry a white man (Ashton Kutcher) who has recently quit his job.

Yet far from being a funny and biting look at race-relations in contemporary America, the film frequently feels clumsy and borderline racist, while borrowing heavily from the likes of Meet The Parents and Meet The Fockers, with the ending of Hitch thrown in.

Too many of the jokes seem obvious and over-used, while most (if not all) of the characters struggle to rise above the cliches foisted upon them.

Mac, who confesses to being a fan of the original, is both engaging and annoying as Percy Jones, the arrogant head of the family who has a lesson or two to learn about acceptance.

While Kutcher is also both amusing and irritating as the prospective son-in-law who continually struggles to keep up with the Jones'.

The film actually works best when trying not to be funny, as in the genuinely tender moments between Mac and Saldana (as they attempt to reconcile their differences), or the romantic interludes between Saldana and Kutcher, who actually benefits from playing things a little more low-key.

Had the film done the same, it might have been more note-worthy, given that it starts brightly with Mac mistaking a black cab driver for his daughter's new beau and then becoming exasperated by the record selection on his radio during a car journey with Kutcher (Ebony & Ivory is included).

But by the time both leads have to ask for forgiveness in front of a garden-full of black women, thereby provoking obvious comparisons with yet another movie (Jerry Maguire), viewers may well have run out of patience with it.

It should not be difficult to guess, therefore, that I advise approaching with caution.

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