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And then the bottom drops out. All paint-by-number comedies of this ilk eventually hit the point where everything appears to be destroyed. Relationships are ended, love gone in a flash, and those who were thick-as-thieves are now unable to look at each other let alone speak. A film like Our Family Wedding can’t come to a resolution unless the story hits so far down on the depression scale that the inevitable across-the-board reconciliations can culminate into nothing but a climatic moment of happy ending. Those quarrels on the periphery that constantly spill over onto the untouchable happiness of the core couple they surround needs to break them apart in order to be repaired. Yet, for some strange reason, it actually took about half the film for my enjoyment to finally hit the floor. No matter how tired the script, somehow I was laughing and having fun with these two-dimensional characters for much longer than anticipated. But then the physical comedy came with a high-tech bathroom sink malfunction, serving only as a set-up for a later goat versus Viagra bit … and the IQ level showed itself.

It is also hard to believe that had Carlos Mencia’s Miguel been completely oblivious to the job description for the company he owned, rather than just partially, the entire movie would be about ten minutes long. If Mencia didn’t stumble upon the correct button to attach and tow Forest Whitaker’s sultry radio-voiced Brad’s car, the two wouldn’t have bred their grade school hair-pulling war. When I read plot synopsis saying the lead characters’ wedding was at risk unless their fathers could end their feud, I thought maybe they were owners of competing businesses or had been enemies ever since the one gave the other a swirlie in 10th grade. Instead, however, the petty argument creating the large chasm between them occurs about two hours before they are properly introduced as future family members. The stereotypical tit-for-tat as Mencia drives away with Whitaker’s car may have been obvious in its racial overtones, but when ‘Vato’ gets busted out and Carlos say, ‘okay, now I don’t speak English,’ I couldn’t help but smile. And that’s how it was for the duration; each stupid event somehow snuck up on me and charmed its way to winning a smile here or giggle there. I really wanted to hate this film, but I just couldn’t.

That doesn’t mean it’s good, because it’s far from it. For every successful sequence like a bar scene education into the urban jobs of a Mixologist and Turntableist, or wedding table planning that manifests visual hypotheses of nightmarish outcomes from horrific pairings, or the culture clash between the older Mexican adults with the non-traditionalist children—abuela calling the groom a heathen in Spanish is a highlight, as is the discovery of a hair weave—there is a goat on Viagra. Yes, a goat on Viagra … you can’t make this stuff up. If the filmmakers seriously excised maybe thirty minutes of ill-advised humor, Our Family Wedding could have been a winner. I’d even go so far as to forgive Mencia’s lack of acting ability had the script been tighter and didn’t tip over into the absurd, you know, stuff like a fifty-year old woman trying on wedding dresses with her daughter, stuff like that. Carlos just doesn’t have the natural charisma to hide his lack of skill; he constantly looks as though he is trying too hard, always stiff and robotic. It’s not as though I think George Lopez is any great actor himself, but I wonder how this film would have played if his range of achieving believable compassion were in play.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the performances, especially that of Whitaker. Rarely does he get to play the player—a ladies’ man due to his high profile radio voice—hooking up with young girls every night, wearing expensive suits, and keeping his mansion in regulated alignment due to obsessive compulsiveness. When he and Mencia go at it, there are a few good laughs. Eventually they play out the same routine one time too many, but until that quota is eclipsed, some funny things happen. America Ferrera as Lucia is the central character of the whole endeavor, daughter to Mencia and bride to be of Marcus, played by Lance Gross. She is head-over-heels in love with her fiancé, but at the same time completely afraid of what her family will think about her quitting school to be a volunteer teacher for underprivileged children. The themes of being your own person and learning that parents love us even when they are mad get thrown to and fro, sometimes sticking, but mostly bouncing off to try again later. Yet Ferrera stays grounded, never breaking from the constraints of her role and making us pull for her to receive the life she deserves. I also really liked Gross as the perfect guy you bring home to meet mom—doctor, great shape, cares for the poor, athletic, and generous. He needs to be all those things in order for us to hate the fathers for trying so hard to break the marriage up.

As such, it becomes the same old stereotype Hollywood made Sidney Poitier play in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. He is completely emasculated because unless the groom is squeaky clean, we won’t be able to believe the premise thrown at us. It’s a thankless role that services the comedy showcase billing of Mencia, (for all intents and purposes a hack who no one really likes in the industry, or at least so I hear), and Whitaker, (never one to be known for his comedic chops). To say those two are no Hepburn and Tracy is stating the blatantly obvious. Therefore you need supporting players to pick up some slack, including a sarcastic genius in Anjelah Johnson’s Isabella—if only for her delivery of the quote used above for the review title towards Shannyn Sossamon—the stalwart maternal figure of Regina King, and the sympathetic lost woman in Diana-Maria Riva’s Sonia, mother to Lucia. Taye Diggs could have made this list, but he decides to disappear after one short scene as the whipped friend getting serenaded with a Babyface song by Charlie Murphy and Whitaker during a lunch meet-up. He was good enough to take the paycheck for five minutes of work, but couldn’t come back to play a groomsman? Murphy stuck around; hell, even Warren Sapp came out to play. I guess those two didn’t have any better offers than this lukewarm, occasionally entertaining, but mostly disappointing, romp.

Our Family Wedding 5/10

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photography:
[1] L to R: Lance Gross, America Ferrera, Regina King, Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia; Photo by Scott Garfield
[2] Lance Gross and America Ferrera in OUR FAMILY WEDDING; Photo by Scott Garfield

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