CATEGORIES Comedy, New Releases, Theatrical Reviews, New in Theaters, Fox Searchlight, Family Films, Features, Movie News, Reviews, New Releases, Cinematical
Our Family Wedding is a ham-handed mixture of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Father of the Bride that tries to humorously address the uncomfortable and often unacknowledged racism between African-Americans and Latinos, but it lacks the depth or character development necessary to offer more insight than "no hablo ingles" and parole jokes.
The premise is simple: America Ferrera plays a beautiful, smart, and likeable young Latina named Lucia who has dropped out of law school so she can marry her handsome, smart, likeable African-American boyfriend, Marcus (Lance Gross). They plan to move to Laos where he will work for Doctors Without Borders. Of course, none of this sits well with her overprotective father, Miguel (the abysmal comedian Carlos Mencia, who seems to be mellowed out on Valium here, thankfully), or with his marriage-phobic single dad, Brad (Forest Whitaker). Lucia's mom doesn't seem to have much say in the matter, either way.
Brad and Miguel get off to a bad start even before they realize their kids know each other or, for that matter, are on their way to drop a bomb on them. Miguel's employees at his towing company are all out sick, so when a call comes in about a super-fancy sports car parked illegally, he has to put on a jumpsuit and do it himself. Naturally, it's Brad's, and when Miguel refuses to let it slide, they get into a war of words. "You people?" "Don't call me bro!" "Don't call me ese!" etc. Yes, they went there in the first 20 minutes. Jokes include Brad's fondness for young women, Magnum Trojans, and supply of Viagra; a sassy abuelita who faints when she meets Marcus; and a live goat that escapes being roast at the wedding, only to gobble down some of Brad's little blue pills. So if you've ever wanted to see an Oscar-winning actor get humped by a goat, here's your chance.
The problem is that Our Family Wedding has little else to offer other than these cheap shots. Lucia and Marcus are picture-perfect and not much else. Things perk up when it becomes clear just how much Lucia is still a daddy's girl seeking her parents' approval and Marcus starts thinking about his dad's ominous warnings about marriage, but there's never a question about whether or not the two will be together in the end -- just how many lame jokes we'll have to sit through to get there.
It's sad to see the normally vivacious and outspoken Ferrera given such a two-dimensional part. Both she and Gross are cookie-cutter overachievers who suddenly figure out what they want to do with their lives, and, in Lucia's case, it has nothing to do with the expensive education her family worked so hard to provide her with. But this problem, which is a theme of countless movies and books about white post-college kids, is given the briefest of treatments; instead of exploring further why Lucia wants her parents' approval so much, the writers just chalk it up to being a "typical" Latina with a macho dad who wants to make sure his little girl has the best of everything. Sure, this is a light-hearted comedy about family and how gosh-darn crazy they are when it comes to weddings, but the theme of race is brought up at the very beginning; in between all those lame jokes, surely we can find some insight too?
Whitaker is about as believable as a horny goat on a wedding day, playing a womanizing radio personality with a sprawling house up in the hills. (Our Family Wedding is no less guilty of being architecture or interior design porn than It's Complicated.) I love seeing him onscreen in almost anything, but seriously? Ghost Dog meets Mind of Mencia? The frigging Last King of Scotland? Thankfully, Regina King is there to balance him out as Angela, his longtime friend and lawyer, who acts as a surrogate aunt/wife to Marcus and Brad, along with offering valuable legal counsel.
There are some bright spots. Anjelah Johnson, who plays Lucia's sister Isabella, strikes a fine balance between tomboy and pretty girl as a mechanic at her father's company; her scenes with Ferrera fighting or cuddling are the truest moments in the movie. One in particular, when they're gossiping about their mother, reveals a deeper truth, which is that guys aren't the only ones afraid of getting tied down and dried up. Women can be scared of becoming their mothers, too, and in this case, their mom Sonia (Diana Maria Riva) has nothing to do but make jewelry and be forgotten on Valentine's Day. Ferrera finally gets to let it rip in a cute Say Anything-type scene, but otherwise the movie doesn't take advantage of all she has to offer, although she does look gorgeous. And finally, three characters who manage to skirt the "sassy Latina" movie stereotype. (Let's not discuss Grandma and the aunts, please. Or when they get into a fight with Marcus' family and someone loses part of her weave. Or the cousin fresh out of jail in a purple pinstriped suit.)
In the end, Our Family Wedding is barely about Lucia and Marcus' wedding. It's about the relationship between Brad and Miguel and warring sets of traditions and values. And like every other wedding movie, it can't end until everyone is living happily ever after. No, really. Stay through the credits and you'll see.