Judge Brett Cullum, that's who.
Some in-laws were made to be broken.
Guess who's coming to dinner? If this were 1967, your daughter would bring home Sidney Poitier. But this is almost forty years later, and Ashton Kutcher is your daughter's date. If I were doing a remake of a Sidney Poitier classic (which also starred Kate Hepburn and Spencer Tracy), well, there's only two people I would call: Ashton Kutcher (That '70s Show) and Bernie Mac (The Bernie Mac Show). But honestly, Guess Who is not a remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and it was only a last minute title change that resulted in the connection between the two films. What we really get is a light, frothy, insubstantial comedy that feels more like Meet the Parents, and a really nice DVD package.
Facts of the Case
Simon Green (Kutcher) is going to meet his fiancee's parents. It's a stressful situation under normal circumstances, but his girlfriend's parents are black and he's white. To add to Simon's racial crisis, he has also just quit his job as a New York stockbroker. The father, Percy Jones (Mac), is a large, loud, proud black man who is shocked to see a scrawny well-to-do white man with his daughter. He's throwing a large party for his anniversary, where he plans to renew his vows to his wife. How will he react when his daughter announces she's engaged? Will racial bridges be built?
The movie itself is easy enough to like, even though it feels timid. Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher are funny, and they work really well together. Guess Who has a lighter-than-air script that could have fallen flat without these two comedians heading the cast. They both do a fine job with what they are given, and they improvise well enough to punch up many of the jokes. Mac seems to provide vocal ad libs, and Kutcher relies on his physical comedy. If you're a fan of either guy, this movie should be a pleasant experience. It's one of those comedies you giggle over for an hour and a half with friends, and then forget about a week later. The film was originally titled The Dinner Party while it was shooting; I am not sure why they decided to rename it Guess Who. It's unfortunate they did, because now the title makes you want to compare the movie to the Sidney Poitier film. Guess Who's Coming To Dinner was a movie that took on the political and emotional issues behind an interracial marriage, but Guess Who isn't concerned with making any political statements. The biggest problem is that Guess Who is what it is, which is completely inoffensive. It's a safe comedy about a topic that begs to be a little dangerous. The makers of the film and the studio marketing department have cranked out a bland PG-13 light farce. There's nothing wrong with that, but also nothing inspiring about it either. This flick has "Blockbuster family rental" written all over it.
America seems to like inconsequential comedies. Guess Who did fairly well at the box office, and as a result Sony has released a top flight DVD for the little comedy. The transfer is an anamorphic widescreen one with great color clarity and hardly any artifacts to be found. In darker scenes there is some minor grain, but nothing you'll notice too much. The sound mix is also full and robust without having to deliver much other than dialogue and music. There is a director's commentary with Kevin Sullivan (How Stella Got Her Groove Back), which is intensely technical. I was surprised at how much detail he went into about camera set-ups, lighting, and editing. That's not what I expected from a commentary for Guess Who, but budding Hollywood filmmakers should love it. There's a gag reel that is much funnier than anything in the movie, and is a "must-see" extra just to see Ashton and Bernie really cut loose. There are deleted scenes which prove to be nothing that would have added or detracted from the movie. You also get some previews of upcoming hot Sony releases, like this fall's musical Rent, and a teaser trailer for The DaVinci Code. There's also a featurette—actually an electronic press kit, renamed "Behind the Scenes." It offers very little insight and your standard clips with talking heads saying nice things about the movie.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Who does Ashton Kutcher think he is? It cost the makers of Guess Who $100,000 to digitally remove his red thread Kaballah bracelet in every scene. What a strange little diva he has become. And what an absolutely perfect example of how politically correct Guess Who stoops to being. Had they kept the Kaballah bracelet in the movie, not only would Kutcher's character be white but also a student of Jewish mysticism.
The movie strives to be Meet the Parents more than Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, but I guess "Meet The" didn't make as much sense as "Guess Who." So the title gives you the perfect idea of what the movie is like, a shorthand inoffensive comedy that has two notes and two okay comedy performances. It's the kind of film I'd be content to watch as an in-flight movie, but not anything that begs to be added to round out a serious collection of DVDs. Fans of Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher may find value in a purchase, but it's a rental at best for most of us. Sony did an awesome job with the DVD, and at least it offers a lot of support for the release.
Not guilty of anything other than being extremely vanilla. There's no edge, no urgency, and nothing offensive. What a shame. Case dismissed on the grounds of a lack of evidence that there's anything in front of us except two television stars doing a movie that could have easily been an episode of one of their sitcoms.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Kevin Sullivan
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