Eye For Film >> Movies >> Guess Who (2005) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
The first thing to be said is that if this was an Eddie Murphy picture words such as "stereotype" and "attitude" would be in full flow, not to mention "same old" and "racial dysfunction." Thank God for Bernie Mac.
The second thing to say is that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are not in it. They starred first time around, back in 1967, when Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming To Dinner caused a disturbance across middle-class suburbia.
Now the roles have been reversed. Instead of a rich, liberal minded, San Franciscan couple, faced with the prospect of a black son-in-law (albeit in the form of honorary Caucasian Sidney Poitier), you have a rich, traditionally minded, New Jersey banker (Mac), who happens to look like an African, faced with his favourite daughter's white boyfriend (well mannered Ashton Kutcher) at his renewal wedding vows ceremony, something his wife (Judith Scott) insisted upon as a celebration of 25 years of marriage.
Race comedy is dangerous ground. Chris Rock can do it because he's up front and black. Murphy used to be able to do it before he sold out to Dr Dolittle and Daddy Day Care. The Political Correct Manuel of Multiracial Interaction states, "White-skinned comedians shall not mock, blaspheme against, satirise or take the Michael out of ethnic minorities." This translates as, "White cats can't do jive." Black cats can. "Why?" asks the creators of Guess Who.
The PC manual has been tossed. The writers have serious fun with black-on-white prejudice. Mr Jones, the banker, is a proud man. What goes on in his house has to pass a strict code of conduct. He likes to think he has it locked down when it's the women (naturally) who wear the pants and he would neither admit this, nor say sorry - ever!
Mac's performance is in the tradition of Alf Garnett and Basil Fawlty, irritable comedy of the highest order. He is well matched by Kutcher's idealistic corporate young lion, temporarily way over his head and racing to stay in one place. Together, they put genuine muscle into something that might so easily have been just another lame rom-com, with colour coding.Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2005