Sony // 2010 // 112 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // August 25th, 2011
Sometimes the only way to get past family drama...is to jump right over it.
Jumping the Broom takes the classic film genre of "sophisticated wedding comedy" like The Philadelphia Story or Father of the Bride, and offers up a far more modern, urban retelling. At the core we have two families descending on the tony Hamptons to marry off their kids. One group is decidedly uptown and quite wealthy, while the other is proudly working class and downtown as can be. Both have to come together to decide how to handle merging the two worlds for the sake of their children, and how to honor old ideas and traditions to mix with more modern sensibilities. The very title comes from a slave celebration that began when black weddings were not even legally recognized, so the couple would jump a kitchen broom to signify their commitment. Much like the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass, it symbolizes something about the historical struggle of the people in the ceremony. In the movie it becomes a point of contention, does the couple jump the broom or are they past all of that? Will downtown show uptown how much they have in common?
A great cast is what makes all of this work. The intended couple is played by Paula Patton (Precious) and Laz Alonso (Avatar), and they both come off as likable and the kind of pair you want to root for. As the very controlling mothers, Angela Bassett (What's Love Got to Do with It) plays uptown to the tee while Loretta Devine (I Am Sam) makes her downtown postal worker just as real. It's such a joy to see these two veteran actresses get to bounce off each other, one with steely resolve while the other lets loose her passions freely. They both represent the kind of mother that makes you wince at a wedding, but that makes it all feel more authentic. Mike Epps (The Honeymooners) is surprisingly good in a role I thought would descend into parody all too easily. He plays the rather woman-crazed uncle who has been married over four times and is looking for his next conquest. His character reveals some neat dimension later in the film, and it is a nice surprise that shows nobody here is demoted to only being one-note or inserted as a joke.
If anything trips up the film it would the elaborate plotting. There is so much happening with so many people around the wedding it seems a miracle anybody can move forward at all. The narrative juggles too many characters, and there is so much material that the threads don't quite connect in the end. Yet it is fun to see them try to cram it all in there, but it feels like it could have been tightened up to greater effect. There are some late in the game twists that seem to come from nowhere, used to create tension and drama when there was certainly enough substance just keeping things simple and straight. The actors always save it, though, and find a way to find the truth in their characters no matter what curve comes their way.
The film has been released on both DVD and Blu-ray formats. This high definition 1080p rendering is solid enough, but I imagine the other more traditional format would be almost as good. The film is shot well, but it is hardly cinematic in scope or feel. Colors look natural and black levels look just fine, but neither are dazzling or feel like they have any extra oomph. The surround sound of the DTS-HD MA track is fine, but most of it is dialogue with songs now and then to pump out. Blu-ray feels like overkill in this case, because the movie is smaller and intimate in scope.
Extras are almost exactly the same as the DVD edition as well. The main bonus feature is an audio commentary by director Salim Akil and stars Paula Patton and Laz Alonso. They dissect how the film set out to deal with race and religion, and it's a lively warm discussion of the production. There is a pretty in-depth look at the making of the feature in a behind-the-scenes supplement that clocks in at over twenty minutes in length. A short six-minute spot explains the tradition of jumping the broom. There is a movie IQ sync feature that operates online, but I could not get the track to work with my Internet connection. It kept saying the content was no longer available. All of these features, save for the online content, are available on DVD as well.
I can't say that you need to spend the extra money to get the Blu-ray for Jumping the Broom, but fans may savor the extra definition in the transfer. As a black comedy, it one ups Tyler Perry for never giving in to stereotypes, and it's smart enough to make an audience feel appreciative for the care it takes with the characters. Some of the plotting may feel a bit melodramatic and soap opera-esque in tone, but it seems forgivable when you consider what a great cast they have to pull it all off. Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett are great together, and Mike Epps offers surprising depth to his role too. At the core though, the nuptials of Paula Patton and Laz Alonso feel real enough to carry the comedy into more dramatic territory. This one is worth a look if you ever found yourself wishing that The Philadelphia Story could be remade with a more hip and ethnic cast.
Guilty of jumping the broom and not the shark.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13