Hollywood has already turned its preying eye towards books and television, as well as brainless sequels to blockbuster movies. When all of those surefire stolen ideas fall short though there’s only one thing to do: exhume and rape a classic boundary-breaking film. In this case Sidney Poitier’s best known classic, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.
In its time, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was a daring and brave film. During its creation segregation was still in effect, with the idea of a mixed racial couple actually illegal in many states (although this was remedied between the filming and release of the movie). The idea of a black man coming to dinner, let alone dating or proposing to the white daughter of wealthy parents was scandalous. As the movie was released, the world started to change its acceptance of these issues, although we all know there are still closed minded individuals out there who see the color of skin as a boundary in relationships.
Enter today’s hipper, modern remake of the classic Sidney Poitier/Spencer Tracy film, with a slick, shorter title: Guess Who. This time the roles are reversed and the family we follow is the black family, the Jones family. Percy Jones (Bernie Mac) is the family patriarch, a loan officer who is getting ready to celebrate a 25th Anniversary renewal of his vows with his wife. Unfortunately, Percy is one of those closed minded individuals that are still out there, which means it’s quite a shock to his world when his daughter brings home Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher), her white stock broker boyfriend. The result is a sort of racial Meet The Parents style battle between father and fiancé, which I’m sure the studio thought would cause zany fun to ensue.
Unfortunately to truly appreciate Guess Who requires giving no thought whatsoever to the situation of this comedy. The truth is that some interracial couples face this sort of resistance from their families every day, but I can assure you it’s never a comedy when it really happens. It’s never something so light hearted as a father pulling his daughter’s suitor’s credit report and bunking with him to keep an eye on him as a laugh track (something the movie could possibly have used) approves. It’s usually the type of thing that ends in tears and family members not talking for a lifetime.
Let’s put aside painful realities though and just look at this as a pure, totally baseless, comedy. Guess Who does have some good moments in it, which one can’t help but expect. After all, in the post-”Friends” world of sitcoms, Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher are both forces to be reckoned with. Unfortunately other than those three or four decent moments, the rest of the movie bombs. There’s nothing tangible enough to string together those good moments to make the movie enjoyable. I could watch the three or four minute sequences of Ashton and Bernie Mac in bed together, or racing go-carts, and get the same amount of laughter as I got from the whole movie. Three or four gags tacked together with a lot of reminders that Bernie’s daughter’s date is white, and Ashton delivering bad news through uncontrollable smirks does not a good movie make.
In the end Guess Who is not the worst movie to come out this year, although in a year of movies by Uwe Boll and independent attempts at H.G. Wells tales that’s not exactly a huge accomplishment. There are too many good comedies out there this year alone for me to waste time on the desecration of such a classic film. Kutcher’s Simon states in the movie that by not telling racial jokes we empower them, and by placing them out there everyone has to acknowledge them. Maybe that’s what Guess Who is trying to do. Unfortunately the movie just asks me to suspend my disbelief way too far, and only succeeds in teaching that the only thing that can overcome racism is the battle of the sexes.
Sony Pictures earns the award for reaching new heights in putting a bunch of junk before a movie nobody’s interested in seeing. As is all too typical these days, the first thing that appears as the DVD begins to play are trailers. Regardless of being interesting trailers that are making their debut on this DVD, its always annoying to see trailers first thing, although thankfully you can skip past these. The new annoyance comes after selecting to watch the movie, where you get to see screens not only presenting the old FBI warning, but also three screens in different languages explaining the thoughts presented in the commentary do not necessarily represent those of Sony Pictures. I get the need for diversity, I get the need for the warning, but do I need to see it in three different languages even if I’m watching the movie without the commentary? And unlike the trailers, these can’t be skipped past. Congratulations, Sony, for your accomplishments.
One of the things I was most looking forward to from the DVD was the director’s commentary. I was hoping director Kevin Rodney Sullivan (Barbershop 2) could clear up exactly why he decided to remake and destroy such a classic film (he is rumored as saying he did it to go ahead and work out his issues with the future dates his daughter will bring home). Unfortunately he really doesn’t go into much depth as to why the film was made, just explaining how. Let me save you the time of listening to the commentary track. How Guess Who was made: Bernie Mac and Ashton wanted to do it, and the two of them came up with a majority of the gags in the movie through personal experiences or ad libbing. Sullivan proves his love for ad libbing as he admits most of the movies best gags were created on the spot. As usual, he also makes sure to compliment every single person’s work on the film so as to make sure nobody is offended.
There are around half a dozen deleted scenes included, although they really aren’t worth much. Most of them are awkward transitional scenes that were originally intended to connect scenes and tie up lose ends but really weren’t necessary. There is also a gag reel of outtakes, although given the humorous cast the gags are quite disappointing. A short making-of documentary rounds out the movie-related features on the DVD, although (in case you didn’t get enough when you first put the disc in) there are also about a dozen previews for other Sony pictures, some of which have better laughs then Guess Who has in it’s entire movie. Oddly, the trailer for Guess Who is not included.
Really Guess Who couldn’t be more of a cookie cutter DVD release. Put in the DVD, sit through trailers, navigate the menu to play the movie (sit through the warning screens first of course), then watch a gag reel, some deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and if you want the director’s commentary. At that point the disc is though. None of the features are worth watching again, and really neither is the movie. No doubt Sony will decide the movie was successful enough to warrant a sequel, which will then cause the need for an unrated version of the movie. Until then this movie can sit on the shelf collecting dust, while the classic Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner finds repeated playtime in my DVD player.