Our Family Wedding

Our Family Wedding

*

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The course of romcom love never runs smooth. After wasting weeks of my life this year sitting through films about how people find love despite their quirky habits and absent personalities, I was today faced with one about how two young people who are actually happy together find their romantic progress inhibited by a clash between their families. The problem? Both their dads are would-be Alpha-males; both of them have 'complicated' family issues; and one is black, the other Hispanic. Yes, readers, it's a race-relations comedy for the Noughties, with not a trace of irony.

This particular young couple are perhaps the blandest of the lot; they don't even have those quirky habits, just a sullen pout and a flashing smile between them. We might, then, consider it fortunate that they're not the main focus of the film. Instead, we spend most of our time in the company of Miguel (Carlos Mencia) and Brad (Forest Whitaker, how did it come to this?).

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Early on, there's a clumsily written encounter in which Miguel tows away Brad's car because it's parked in the wrong place, leading to instant animosity. Of course, Miguel is only doing the job as a favour - he can't actually be a tow-truck driver because the film isn't quite so daring as to make one of its families working class. No, these are the kind of people who live in big, comfortable houses, wear designer suits, put their kids through expensive universities and still expect our sympathy for petty problems exclusively of their own making.

The fact they're both from ethnic minorities means they have an assumed license to trade racial slurs, though at least in this respect the film's lack of subtlety goes some way toward bridging a cultural divide that would make these unfamiliar stereotypes impossible to understand for many British viewers otherwise.

In no respect is subtlety a hallmark of the film. Early lines ladle on the exposition and no opportunity to show is taken when telling can be done instead. Racism aside, the whole thing is bound together with poorly executed slapstick that sometimes seems to embarrass even its creators, with jokes abandoned at random intervals as if nobody had the guts to see them through.

The words 'goat' and 'viagra' should sum up the worst of it, though even the resultant lewdness manages to be dull. Character development is calculated to fit around this rather than to drive it, and the plot is a parade of clich├ęs. Miguel's lonely wife (Diana-Maria Riva, pouting like poor man's Jennifer Aniston) gradually persuades the clownish Miguel to rekindle their romance. Brad gradually realises that his lust for younger women is keeping him apart from the only woman he really cares for (Regina King, who gives the only decent performance in the film).

Our young hero and heroine find their love tested and put themselves through a lot of pointless angst. The bride-to-be's sister (Anjelah N Johnson) is the only character to challenge the familiar narrative arc, but even she is compromised by a twee ending, assuring worried viewers that she'll soon be ready to give up her personality in pursuit of the same tawdry suburban dream.

Our Family Wedding seems to be one of those films that has only made it to British screens as part of some desperate distributor's package deal (the price cinemas pay for booking in blockbusters). It's an embarrassment to all concerned, not least the audience. You will really be rooting for these kids to tie the knot, but only because the formula dictates that then they'll go away.

Reviewed on: 11 Jun 2010
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Two families clash when their offspring decide to tie the knot.
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Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Writer: Wayne Conley, Malcolm Spellman, Rick Famuyiwa

Starring: Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King, Lance Gross, Diana-Maria Riva, Anjelah N. Johnson

Year: 2010

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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