Sometimes, you wonder why a filmmaker even bothers. The new nuptials comedy, Our Family Wedding, is so bereft of ideas, so lacking in anything remotely fresh, humorous, interesting, or entertaining that you have to invent reasons for its existence. Did someone at the studio lose a bet? Was there something in Forest Whitaker’s career contract that stated, if he won an Oscar (for the Last King of Scotland), he would have to repay the favor by marginalizing the remainder of his movie stardom? Has comic Carlos Mencia struck a deal with the Devil? Whatever the case, Brown Sugar director Rick Famuyima ought to be ashamed. Never has 100 supposedly laugh-filled minutes felt more like a death in the family instead of a marriage.
Lucia Ramirez (America Ferrera) is a bright law student at Columbia who has just dropped out to marry her doctor boyfriend Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross). The plan is to travel to Los Angeles and spring the news on their family before heading off to Laos (long story). She is concerned that her overprotective father (Carlos Mencia) and distant mother (Diana-Maria Riva) won’t understand. There is also the racial element to consider, since she is Mexican and Marcus is African American. As for his side of things, there’s a single celebrity DJ dad (Forest Whitaker) who’s never been very good at commitment or guiding his son in the proper direction. Pops is intolerant as well. It will take a miracle for this couple to pull off the planning without everyone coming unglued.
Our Family Wedding is stuffed so full of meaningless junk that it resembles a white trash trailer tramp’s ballooning sweatpants. Its comedy cannot come from any recognizable or identifiable characters, since the script (by Famuyima, Wayne Conley, and Malcolm Spellman) fails to provide any — or at least ones that aren’t walking/talking/mugging clichés. Many of the physical gags are so ancient that the ghost of Ben Turpin plans on suing. Slapstick hasn’t looked this painfully unfunny since Steve Martin decided to soil the memory of Peter Sellers…twice! In the end, you won’t care if Lucia and Marcus tie the knot. You will wonder how so-called motion picture professionals get paid to produce such swill.
We can forgive a film premised on outdated racial tensions for not being a total gut-buster, but does it have to be so cowardly? The closest we get to a bigot beat-down is when Mencia and Whitaker go after each other with a series of street slang nicknames (“Bro!”…”Ese!”…”Homie!”…”Vato!”), but after that, it’s up to the old Latino ladies to faint at the sight of a young black male or make jokes at the expense of Marcus’s extended family. Even then, the jibes are harmless, less pointed than the epithets offered by Archie Bunker some 40 years ago. Had the movie decided to take things more seriously, to play up the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? angle and downplay the TV sitcom shenanigans, we might have had something watchable. Instead, Our Family Wedding is as insufferable as that inappropriate relative during the ceremonial toast.
In fact, it’s hard to see how anyone thought this would work. All three parents are nauseating in their pre-Neanderthal ideas about relationships (especially Whitaker, who beds bimbos in their 20s like it’s a Federal mandate), and the movie reinforces stereotypes that have long since been set aside as horribly inappropriate. Perhaps we are supposed to giggle at the egregious non-PC elements. All we end up doing is suffering through the stupidity and praying for an annulment.