Kernel Rating (out of 5):
Length: 112 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Age Appropriate for: 15+; there’s no graphic or explicit sexual content, but the implied innuendos are pretty clear.
‘Jumping the Broom’ wants to be a meaningful film about family traditions and religious beliefs, but overshadows those messages with unnecessary characters and silly drama.
By Roxana Hadadi
It’s barely halfway through 2011, and I’m already wedding-ed out.
First, Will and Kate’s royal nuptials, which cable channel Lifetime used as an excuse for yet another unbearably bad made-for-TV movie. (Full disclosure: I totally watched both the real wedding and the Lifetime version, obviously.) Next, “Something Borrowed,” so predictable and unsurprising, a romantic comedy that tried to make us sympathetic to a woman who starts an affair with her best friend’s fiancé. Then, the inimitable, unbelievably wonderful “Bridesmaids,” which I’ll forever remember as one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
And “Jumping the Broom”? Well, “Jumping the Broom” exists in some middle space between “Something Borrowed” and “Bridesmaids,” more serious than the former but less memorable than the latter. Geared toward the African-American community but not a Tyler Perry flick, the film is more believable than Perry’s often farcical productions but also doesn’t truly deliver a riveting story of class divides. The characters are sketchy and not really sympathetic; too many plot points are left unresolved; and the pacing of the film drags, resembling a soap opera in its jumping between various plots. Director Salim Akil, who previously worked in TV shows like “The Game” and “Girlfriends,” drags out supporting storylines past their acceptable runtime but doesn’t pad them out, meaning “Jumping the Broom” — while clocking in at nearly two hours — never really gives anyone their proper due.
We’re introduced first to Sabrina (Paula Patton), a gorgeous lawyer who is regretting yet another one-night stand as the guy chats with another girl on the phone before Sabrina has even left. “I gave up the cookie,” she thinks mournfully, but then promises God she won’t sleep with anyone else until her future husband. Nearly immediately after, she hits the handsome and kind Jason (Laz Alonso) with her car, launching a whirlwind romance that culminates in an engagement about seven months later.
But with such a rapid relationship, Sabrina and Jason haven’t met each other’s parents, so their first interaction will be at their wedding at Sabrina’s parents’ palace in Martha’s Vineyard. Though everyone is spending only three days together, the problems come fast and furious. Jason’s working-class mother Pam (Loretta Devine) finds Sabrina stuck-up, since they’ve only communicated through text messages and because Sabrina bought the dress she wants Pam to wear to the wedding. Sabrina’s mother Claudine (Angela) finds Jason’s family “simple” and shocks everyone at dinner when she claims her family didn’t descend from slaves — they owned them.
And all the supporting players, from Jason’s cousin Malcolm (DeRay Davis) to Sabrina’s best friend Blythe (Meagan Good) have their own issues. Malcolm dislikes Jason’s wealth and considers him not masculine for succumbing to Sabrina’s choices, like not having sex until they get married. Blythe think Sabrina is pretending her promiscuous past doesn’t exist, and starts a relationship with the wedding caterer (Gary Dourdan) for seemingly no reason than to rub it in Sabrina’s face. There’s also Sabrina’s father Greg (Brian Stokes Mitchell), who may be having an affair; her aunt Geneva (Valarie Pettiford), whose hard-partying ways hide a secret; Pam’s best friend Shonda (Tasha Smith), who is trying to deny her attraction to the 20-years-younger Sebastian (Romeo Miller); Jason’s uncle Willie Earl (Mike Epps), who urges Pam to lay off Jason and allow him to grow up … and it goes on and on and on.
Every character has some kind of defining trait — Pam’s overbearing treatment of Jason, Claudine’s standoffishness against people not in her tax bracket, Malcolm’s bombastic personality — but they aren’t allowed out of those strict roles. Even Sabrina and Jason, who the film should focus on, undergo similar disservice. Sabrina is often nothing more than a snobby brat, insisting that everyone at her wedding should wear the color “buff” and being shocked that Jason would want to spend time with his friends during his bachelor party. And though Jason is considerate, often accommodating Sabrina’s wishes, only a few speeches about his responsibilities after his father’s death and his career aspirations are given as reasons for why he puts up with his mother’s unnecessary meddling or Malcolm’s judgments.
Nevertheless, there are strong performances here. Bassett is impressively steely as the slowly disintegrating matriarch watching her marriage fall apart, and Epps provides the right amount of comic panache to the wise, but lady-chasing, role of Uncle Willie Earl. And Alonso, who played the formidable and ferocious Tsu’tey in “Avatar” (we never actually saw him because of his alien character’s appearance) shows good range here. He switches from polite and thoughtful to composed and uncompromising to pining and love-struck, truly getting the multi-faceted nature of his character. Most others in the film don’t display the same deft.
“Jumping the Broom” is strongly geared toward African-American, Christian families, and it includes cultural and religious elements that could work as educational discussions between parents and teenage children. The film is rated PG-13 for some cursing and sexual content, which is never graphic or explicit but certainly implied through conversation; Patton also sports some lingerie and there’s a lot of talk about her character’s decision not to have sex with Jason before the wedding. It might not be totally suitable for younger teenagers who are 13 or 14, but for those 15 and older with their parents, the film could inspire talk about your own family history and traditions.
But while Akil keeps “Jumping the Broom” more realistic than Perry’s eye-rolling romps with cross-dressing in the never-ending series of Madea films, he should have skimmed the film’s extra characters to keep it focused. You know the saying about too many cooks spoiling the soup — if Akil had kicked some people off Martha’s Vineyard, “Jumping the Broom” could have been more than just an uneven stew of imprecise ideas.