Successful bank loans officer Percy Jones (Bernie Mac) and his wife Marilyn (Judith Scott) are preparing to renew their 25th anniversary wedding vows. The whole family is getting together and daughter Theresa (Zoe Saldana) is bringing her new boyfriend Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher) to meet her parents. Percy, who is an over-protective dad, has already had Simon checked out, and knows everything about him - except that he is white.
Review by Louise Keller:
Guess Who is a catchy title, but the film has little in common with the 1967 classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, which is credited for its inspiration. Of course times have changed since elegant and articulate Sidney Poitier was introduced to future in-laws Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn, and in this sit-com like reworking, Ashton Kutcher plays visiting fiance to Bernie Mac's tightly wired Dad. And serious issues about race are replaced by a series of gags in search of the cheap laugh.
They're about the same height, but while Mac is in his element with lots of childish tomfoolery, Kutcher appears self-conscious, constantly grimacing and looking as though he is trying too hard. Like Robert DeNiro's father in Meet the Parents, Mac's Percy not only insists on separate rooms for Simon and Theresa (Zoe Saldana), but bunks down in the basement with Simon, to keep an eye on him. Percy is a noisy sleeper and a compulsive cuddler, but these scenes fall flat and Kutcher overacts badly. This scene, like most of the film, is so predictable, and the humour groans with heavy handedness, stopping us having much of a laugh-work-out.
From the first moment when Percy mistakes the black cab driver for his daughter's beau, we can see what's in store for us. Theresa obviously hasn't confided about the colour of her fiance's skin to her sister either, even though they are close enough to talk about what 'sleeping with a white man' is like. Size also comes into contention. When Percy drives Simon to the local hotel, every radio station is playing a song with a racial reference - 'she was as black as the night', 'ebony and ivory'..... I did chuckle at the joke about Adam and Eve not being black - 'have you ever tried to take way a rib from a black man?' which is one of the gags Simon spits out at a family dinner.
Percy is the film's most endearing character, and Mac devours him with relish. Appearances are everything to this immaculately dressed bank loans officer, who fabricates the kind of boyfriend he would like his daughter to have. But the relationship between the Percy and Simon doesn't satisfy; there's more fire between Percy and his feisty wife Marilyn (Judith Scott). Even the scene when Kutcher is teaching Mac how to dance the tango fizzles.
With its underlying theme to be yourself, Guess Who is a bit of a hybrid. Aspiring to be a love story, a comedy and a buddy movie, it achieves none of these. My feet tapped along to the soundtrack, but the clichéd script and predictable humour is totally forgettable.
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GUESS WHO (M)
CAST: Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Chad Gabriel, Jessica Cauffiel
PRODUCER: Jason Goldberg, Steve Greener, Ashton Kutcher, Bernie Mac , Erwin Stoff, Betty Thomas, Jenno Topping
DIRECTOR: Kevin Rodney Sullivan
SCRIPT: David Ronn, Jay Scherick, Peter Tolan (William Rose - film: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
EDITOR: Paul Seydor
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Peters
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 7, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: September 28, 2005
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.