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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Kevin Rodney Sullivan
Cast:
Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Saldana, Judith Scott, Hal Williams, Kellee Stewart, Robert Curtis-Brown, RonReaco Lee, Paula Newsome
Writing Credits:
William Rose (motion picture, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner), David Ronn, Jay Scherick, Peter Tolan

Tagline:
Some in-laws were made to be broken.

Synopsis:
When Theresa (Zoë Saldaña) brings fiancé Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher) home for her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, she’s neglected to mention one tiny detail he’s white. Determined to break his daughter’s engagement, Percy Jones (Bernie Mac) does everything he can to make Simon feel “apart” of the family, from running his credit report to locking him in the basement at night. But when Percy gleefully exposes Simon’s most embarrassing secret, it leads to an outrageous series of comic complications that only goes to prove that with a dad like Percy Jones, father doesn’t always know best.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$20.671 million on 3147 screens.
Domestic Gross
$67.962 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 8/2/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary With Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• “Love Is the Melody: The Making of Guess Who
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Guess Who (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 13, 2005)

It takes some chutzpah to remake a flick that resides in the AFI 100. Really, if a film receives that much praise, why would filmmakers think they could equal or improve on it?

Not that this fact stops them. Heck, some of the AFI 100 flicks boast multiple remakes, or will enter that category soon; Peter Jackson’s new version of King Kong will be the third iteration of that tale not including sequels.

Kong won’t be 2005’s only remake of an AFI 100 flick, though. Guess Who came out on March 25 and provided a reworking of 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. This one redoes the original’s racial dynamics with a twist: instead of a white girl who brings home a black fiancé to meet her folks, a black woman introduces her white fiancé to her family.

The film introduces us to Percy Jones (Bernie Mac), a successful loan officer whose wife Marilyn (Judith Scott) wants to renew their vows at their upcoming anniversary party. We learn that his daughter Theresa (Zoe Saldana) will bring her new boyfriend Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher), a principled stockbroker who quits his job due to some controversies.

Though Simon should land a new job quickly, he withholds this information from Theresa because he worries that it’ll make things more difficult with the hot-headed Percy. They also planned to announce their engagement to the family, but with Simon out of work, he doesn’t want to spill the beans just yet.

Speaking of unspilled beans, Theresa never told her family of Simon’s Caucasian status. This throws Percy for a loop and creates awkward moments. When Percy catches Simon and Theresa fooling around, he wants to send the boy to a hotel. However, they end up full, so Simon has to stay in the Jones’ home’s basement, much to the chagrin of Percy.

Along the way, more and more problems develop. Simon’s old boss starts a nasty rumor about him that means he can’t get a job anywhere else. In addition, Percy insists on sleeping in the same bed as Simon to make sure the dude doesn’t slip out to slip into Theresa. Simon also attempts to raise some money for an IPO. All these and other issues emerge as Simon and Percy battle each other.

Many remakes cause viewers to wonder why the filmmakers bothered. Guess Who firmly falls into that category. I don’t feel that way because I think Dinner was a certified classic. Despite mostly solid acting – not a surprise in a movie with three leads who account for seven Oscars – the original flick is stiff and much more concerned with politics than characters or storytelling.

At least it served a purpose – good movie or not, it had a societal niche to fill. And again, any film with Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy has to at least merit a look due to all that talent.

No offense to Mac, Kutcher, and the others, but they’re not in the same league. Not that Guess needs them to be or that it attempts to take on similar subject matter. The two films share a general premise: they look at racial concepts due to a mixed-race couple and the reactions they inspire. While Dinner used this theme to offer a take on racism in society, Guess prefers farce and romantic comedy.

Actually, that makes the movie sound more focused than it is. Granted, much of the time the film goes for a light-hearted look at racial issues. Indeed, it keeps things so light and vague that for much of its running time, the racial angle seems almost superfluous. Not until relatively late in the movie do we see more play for the racial issues, as the film prefers to focus on the bickering between Mac and Kutcher.

That means the occasional racial topic, but the flick often sticks with material that keeps it firmly in Meet the Parents territory. As the story progresses, it gets into racial subjects more fully, but it never totally invests itself in those. Indeed, the plot starts to fall apart as it moves. Whereas it initially seems like Parents with a racial spin, it eventually tosses in romance, heartbreak and other soap opera topics as it builds toward its intended climax.

Little of this actually works. The film lacks much coherence, a problem particularly during the jumbled third act. Perhaps to differentiate it from Parents, it tries to pack in too many problems. There’s enough potential in the conflicts between dad and boyfriend that we don’t need concerns with his career and various romantic tiffs to spice up the material. Granted, if Parents and Meet the Fockers weren’t confident enough to keep away from off-topic shenanigans, I wouldn’t expect Guess to remain focused, but I still think it bites off more than it can – or should – chew.

At least Mac and Kutcher exhibit decent antagonistic chemistry. Mac has yet to find many cinematic offerings that fit his particular comedic gifts. He felt totally out of place as Bill Murray’s replacement in the second Charlie’s Angels flick, and banal fare like Mr. 3000 doesn’t light up his résumé. Mac is able to dig into Percy a little better, even if he usually seems like he’s on cruise control.

Kutcher doesn’t have to dig either, but he brings an amiable charm to the role. At least Guess allows Percy some balls; he seems less neutered than usual for this sort of part. (Think Ben Stiller.) Neither actor lights up the screen, but they elicit decent energy for their scenes together and create the movie’s main examples of minor mirth.

One of the film’s primary negatives comes from the bizarre character of Keisha (Kellee Stewart), Theresa’s sister. Much more stereotypical than anyone else in the Jones family, she comes across an attempt to give the movie a little more street “flavor” and little else. Doesn’t the name “Keisha” seem out of place among “Percy”, “Marilyn” and “Theresa”? Would such a sheltered suburban girl really show such a “ghetto” side? Yeah, this is all possible; after all, there are plenty of suburban white boys who act like they’re straight outta Compton. It just doesn’t mesh with anything else, so the character distracts rather than amuses.

Not that she distracts from much amusement, as the pleasures of Guess Who remain minor. I couldn’t classify the film as terrible, but it fails to go anywhere new or creative. It’s the sort of movie you watch when it pops up on cable and there’s nothing else to do.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Guess Who appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film usually looked good but demonstrated a smattering of concerns.

The main problems related to definition. Moderate edge enhancement appeared throughout the flick, and that led to more softness than I’d like. While most shots displayed positive clarity, more than a few were a bit fuzzy and uncertain. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and I also noticed no source flaws.

As one might expect, the film used a natural palette. The colors always seemed clear and well-defined. They demonstrated nice vivacity and were consistently strong. Blacks were deep and firm, but shadows showed some mild concerns. Really, those mostly stemmed from the varying complexions of the actors. Mac had notably darker coloring than anyone else in the film, and due to that, he literally got lost in the shadows at times. This may have been unavoidable, as the other actors would be washed-out if the lighting balanced for Mac, but it created a denser image than I’d like. In any case, although the movie didn’t excel, it looked fine most of the time.

While I expected a standard “comedy mix” from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Guess Who, I got a bit more than that. Not a whole lot more, but enough to make the audio more satisfying than expected. Usually the soundfield stayed limited. It went with general environmental material and didn’t display great ambition. However, when it opened up, it did so nicely. The go-kart sequence proved quite involved and active, and other street scenes demonstrated nice movement and delineation. There was enough liveliness on display to make the audio reasonably involving.

For the most part, audio quality was good. Speech suffered from a little edginess but mostly came across as natural and concise. Music showed nice body and richness. The score and songs were vivid and well-defined. Though they usually stayed subdued, the effects always seemed accurate and dynamic. Again, the scenes related to vehicles boasted the best information, and the track showed good range. There wasn’t enough happening here to go above a “B” – especially since some slightly distorted dialogue occurred – but it was perfectly solid.

A few extras finish off the DVD. We get an audio commentary with director Kevin Rodney Sullivan. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion that touches on a mix of topics. Sullivan talks about the cast, the script and improvisation, shooting on location and on stages, cinematography and editing, lighting and visual design, music and story issues. Inevitably, he praises the participants a little too much, and a smidgen of dead air occurs. Otherwise, Sullivan keeps things informative and rich. I didn’t expect much from this track, as I thought it’d be as lightweight as the movie itself. However, Sullivan manages to provide a good look at the creation of this sort of flick.

Next comes a featurette called Love Is the Melody: The Making of Guess Who. This 20-minute and 37-second program offers movie clips, shots from behind the scenes, and comments from Sullivan, actors Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Judith Scott, and Zoë Saldana. They discuss the movie’s genesis, the movie’s tone and emphasis, story issues, characters and the actors’ approaches to their roles, and shooting a few specific scenes. Given its length, I thought this program might offer a little more depth than usual, but it doesn’t. It gives us a moderately useful perspective on some aspects of the shoot but I can’t say I feel like it tells us a whole lot. It comes across as mostly promotional and fluffy.

A Gag Reel runs four minutes and eight seconds. Should you expect anything more than the standard mistakes and silliness? Nope.

Seven Deleted Scenes go for nine minutes and 19 seconds. We see more of Simon’s reaction to quitting his job plus other character bits, most of which give extra screen time to Marilyn and Keisha. The one that introduces her Samoan boyfriend has some laughs, but otherwise these seem slow and redundant. We can watch these clips with or without commentary from Sullivan. He presents a few details about the scenes and usually tells us why he cut them. Like his main commentary, Sullivan offers good explanations for his choices.

The DVD opens with a few ads. We find promos for Rent and The Da Vinci Code. Both of these appear in the Previews area along with trailers for The Legend of Zorro, Zathura, The Cave, Stealth, Bewitched, Lords of Dogtown, xXx: State of the Union, Hitch and Man of the House.

Sporadically entertaining but usually tepid and muddled, Guess Who won’t make anyone forget its predecessor. Granted, the original wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but at least it made a statement and was something distinctive. I can’t say the same for this mostly bland and forgettable attempt at comedy. The DVD presents pretty good picture and audio as well as a decent set of supplements. Rent it if you like its actors, but otherwise I’d skip this mediocre flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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