Guess Who

Synopsis: When Theresa (Zoe Saldana) brings fiance Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher) home for her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, she neglects 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.

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Guess Who 6.25

eyelights: Bernie Mac.
eyesores: its triteness. its bland dialogues. its reheated gags.

“What’s up with the white kid?”

‘Guess Who’ is a remake of the critically-acclaimed, culturally-significant and commercial smash ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner‘.

Released in 2005, it takes the central conceit of the original and turns the tables, making it a comedy about an African-American couple whose daughter brings home her new fiancé.

Her Caucasian fiancé.

Having been raised to overlook race, Theresa simply assumes that mom and dad will immediately accept Simon. But, instead, the new couple is faced with an unexpected culture clash.

Cue the hilarity.

Look, I have no problem with remakes. Sometimes they can give us a fresh perspective on material that we’re all too familiar with. As times change, sometimes we need a new look.

Sadly, ‘Guess Who’ is anything but fresh.

Not only does it fail to address real issues, like its predecessor did, but it focuses mostly on the tension between the father and son-in-law – hoping that it will mine laughs.

Gone are all the intense but potent discussions about values and racial relations. In their stead are a few superficial exchanges here and there, addressing and resolving nothing.

Fine. Be that way.

But at least be funny: ‘Guess Who’ is stocked with boring, middle-of-the-road humour, retreads from a bevy of other sources, 10th generation gags and flat one-liners.

Ugh.

On top of that, the picture feels like an African-American version of 1991’s ‘Father of the Bride‘ – down to the sexually-ambiguous party planner. It’s a reboot of a remake.

The wedding in this one, though, is between Mr. and Mrs. Jones, as they renew their vows on their 25th anniversary. But the hustle and bustle of the event is similar, generic.

And that’s what ‘Guess Who’ feels like: generic.

It’s boring. I hardly ever chuckled (let alone outright laughed!) and I even had a hard time staying awake by the end – a blissful release that never seemed to be on the horizon.

The cast is pretty solid, with Bernie Mac standing out as Percy Jones, the grumpy, hard-headed, prejudiced father. But nothing he does can infuse these dialogues with any life.

In fact, it was stunning to see how backwards some of them could be, especially pertaining to gender roles. It’s hard to imagine that men and women can still be stereotypes.

But, in ‘Guess Who’, they are.

The biggest disappointment, though, is that Ashton Kutcher plays Simon. Though he’s decent, he has none of the charisma that Sidney Poitier offered us in the original.

None.

Even his comedy chops were weak.

And Simon is a shadow of John: whereas John was designed to be near-perfect, giving the parents no reason to disapprove aside for his race, Simon can be a trainwreck, a doofus.

He can’t even win us over.

And yet, in the end, everything comes out right as rain. Naturally, Percy and Simon become friends, naturally Percy and Marilyn rekindle their romance, as do Simon and Theresa.

Everyone’s a big happy family.

Phooey.

There was no reason to contrive any of this mess in the first place. What makes the core concept interesting are the racial dynamics – and that‘s plenty of meat to fuel a picture.

Nope. Not here. Here, everything is watered down.

There’s no spice, no flavour.

‘Guess Who’ fails both as a comedy and as social commentary. It’s a damned shame because it could have been hilarious and relevant. This reboot is neither. It’s nothing.

Q: Guess who. A: Who cares?

Date of viewing: October 22, 2017

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