'Guess Who' Review: The Definition of Unnecessary
As with all other films I’m reviewing as part of Not-So-Newvember, I haven’t seen the original version of this film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. But I do know that that movie was a classic, even revolutionary for its time as it portrayed an interracial relationship and dealt with the impact that would have on a family at the time. Ten years later and its remake, Guess Who is far from becoming a classic, and it isn’t hard to imagine why.
The movie is about Theresa (Zoe Saldana) who takes her boyfriend Simon (Ashton Kutcher) to her parents’ (played by Bernie Mac and Judith Scott) 25th wedding anniversary. It’s a guarantee that your first meeting with your in-laws can make you nervous, but in Simon’s case, all the tension comes from him being white and Theresa and her family being black. If anyone else is more nervous about the situation, it’s Percy, Theresa’s father, who decides he’ll try to sabotage the relationship.
We live in a very different time compared to when Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner came out. Interracial relationships are rather common and thankfully, not frowned upon, but as recent events have shown, we still have a long way to go. Guess Who doesn’t fulfill the potential this situation for any comedic or dramatic intent, instead, it feels more like a remake of Meet the Parents where the tensions come more from the clashing personalities of the father-in-law and the boyfriend. Yes, there are jokes about the racial tensions, but they don’t quite hit the mark and almost feel like an afterthought. It doesn’t help that they’re stereotypical, like something attached to the movie rather than being born out of the characters themselves.
The actors do okay in their roles, the late Bernie Mac does a good job playing the stereotypical angry, suspicious dad. He could have easily been written to be a jerk, but Mac’s portrayal is sympathetic. Ashton Kutcher is fine as well, and he has a good rapport with Mac. But where the movie falls apart is with its female characters; Theresa, her mother and her sister are all underused characters, completely one-note. In fact all characters in the movie are, but since Simon and Percy get more on-screen time, they manage to safely escape this. What’s worse is that we never get the sense of why Theresa and Simon are in love with each other, and when they’re together on-screen, their chemistry is near non-existent, both as characters and in the performances.
Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s directing is fine, it feels on par with the material. It’s not below it or above it, but instead, fits it well. There are instances of using the score (for some reason, made by John Murphy. Yes, the Sunshine John Murphy) to make scenes more obvious. You know, the kind that winks at the audience to say “Look, what a wacky situation!” But the movie keeps its tone balanced and doesn’t make the mistake that so many of these movies make, which is that as soon as things go dark, the tone shifts to the point that you feel you’re watching an entirely different movie.
Guess Who is tolerable, if anything. If you’re ever stuck in line at the emergency room or dentist, it works as a distraction. There isn’t anything to it. It’s not boring to say the least, you probably won’t fall asleep while watching it, but if you caught it on TV, it wouldn’t take you long to change the channel.
Final Say: Skip It