Image Courtesy of Amazon.com
Kevin Rodney Sullivan
Bernie Mac……….Percy Jones
Ashton Kutcher……….Simon Green
Zoe Saldana……….Theresa Jones
Judith Scott……….Marilyn Jones
Hal Williams……….Howard Jones
Kellee Stewart……….Keisha Jones
When one imagines a new look at the Oscar-nominated classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, it’s easy to picture a talented actor such as Don Cheadle or Denzel Washington stepping into the role that Sidney Pointier made famous. Even someone less accomplished as an actor, like Jamie Foxx, Will Smith or Terrence Howard, could bring the sort of articulated intelligence that Pointier brought. Across from that actor, whoever it would be, one could expect that an accomplished actor like Jon Voight or Michael Caine could bring the sort of presence that Spencer Tracy brought to the original.
When all of the possibilities of great actors who could bring back the same sort of powerful examination of “progressive” thought towards race it is an understatement to say that Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher would be in anyone’s Top 10, or even Top 30, of choices to bring out the complexities of two characters such as John Prentice (Pointer) and Matt Drayton (Tracy). But in this era of remakes and sequels nothing is shocking as Mac and Kutcher step into much exalted shoes in the romantic comedy re-envisioning of this classic of American cinema in Guess Who.
Kutcher stars as Simon, a Wall Street type who is passionately in love with Theresa Jones (Zoe Saldana). And of course she wants to bring him home to meet the family; prominent amongst them is her overprotective father Percy (Mac). While Mac talks about racial equality and love of man, it’s another to have her daughter bring home a white man into their suburban African-American home. Simon also has a secret, as he has just left his big-money position and has yet to tell his girlfriend about it. Percy doesn’t like Simon from the get-go and this new information he finds only fuels his distrust and dislike of his daughter’s Caucasian boyfriend. In an ever-escalating series of gags Percy and Simon clash, as Percy does everything in his power to break this union up.
What noticeably stands out in Guess Who are the relationships. Kutcher and Saldana as well as Kutcher and Mac have great chemistry and timing with one another. The cast was well chosen, as they bring life to an otherwise unremarkable movie.
Guess Who is a strange movie to describe. When it is at its peak, it’s a quality fish out of water tale coupled with a buddy comedy. It has a plethora of moments that are obnoxiously funny in part to Kutcher’s ability to just throw himself into the role. With a lot of material that generally isn’t funny on the surface, his natural charisma and mannerisms inject a life into a lackluster script. Mac matches him at every corner, and for large portions of the Guess Who it is a duel between Mac and Kutcher to see who could be funniest.
But at the same time, the comedy in the movie crashes down to sit-com levels. Kutcher and Mac try and inject life into a lot of dead material, and for the most part it works, but at times the material is so bad that even they can’t breathe life into it. On top of that, the movie’s inherent racial premise isn’t touched upon as much as it could’ve been.
Themes of racism and the difficulties are touched upon but it is a superficial manner. There is a lot of tension and a lack of acceptance from society about interracial relationships still out there, but the sort of social commentary that could’ve been made is left out in exchange for some low-brow humor. Kutcher making racist jokes at the behest of his future in laws doesn’t have the sort of poignancy it could’ve in a better written movie.
There’s a lot lacking that could’ve been touched upon in that aspect; one wonders that the original script must’ve been rewritten a lot in order to fit a white actor (Kutcher) into a black role. The racial aspect of a white guy in a black family has more comic implications than social ones.
Score : 7 / 10
This is an excellent transfer, as the film looks great on the small screen. While not designed to be a visual spectacle, Guess Who looks great for what it has to. The color is sharp and the colors vivid, which is more than is really needed for a film that makes its bones with dialogue.
Score : 8 / 10
For a movie that lives and breathes with the dialogue and interaction, the audio comes in spectacularly. You can hear the slight stutters and audible pauses when Kutcher tells the black jokes at the dinner table, and the emotional scenes and dialogue comes through loud and clearly.
Score : 9.5 / 10
Special Features: Seven Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary, Gag Reel, Love is the Melody: The Making of Guess Who Featurette, Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s Commentary,Previews
Seven Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary. Less than half an hour of scenes cut from the movie, as well as Sullivan’s comments about them. It’s pretty simple why the scenes were cut as they were really not needed or necessary to the film’s plot.
Gag Reel. This is pretty straightforward as several minutes of bloopers as well as several blown takes compiled in a highlight reel of sorts, all of whom are generally not very funny. There is one pretty rather amusing highlight of Kutcher and Mac emulating a football scene in slow motion from the NFL highlights behind them.
Love is the Melody: The Making of GUESS WHO Featurette. The making of featurette is about how the movie was able to be made, with the usual sort of insights about them. Sullivan talks up Kutcher and Mac’s talents, as a guest shot on Mac’s show by Kutcher and the resulting chemistry resulted in the two being paired up for the movie. Running at about 20 minutes, it’s mainly about how the two in the whole movie process, from the beginning to the post-production. It doesn’t delve into anything truly exciting or deep, but it is an entertaining look at the movie’s production.
Previews. Trailers for The Legend of Zorro, Zathura, Rent, The Cave, Open Season, Stealth, The Da Vinci Code, Bewitched, Lords of Dogtown, Hitch and Man of the House
Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s Commentary
Score : 7.5 / 10