Secrets, lies, and revelations light the fires on both sides

Jumping the Broom

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Jumping the Broom is an enjoyable, almost good B-movie. The premise is announced immediately with a marriage proposal in front of Lincoln Center, a scene that establishes in an instant that the bride (lawyer) and groom ((investment banker) are successful professionals. In the next frame, the families are gathering for the wedding on Martha's Vineyard. We don't know these people very well before their comic unraveling, but we soldier on bravely in the hope that all will become clear.
            It's not easy. Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) is marrying Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso). Claudine (Angela Bassett) and Gregory Watson (Brian Stokes Mitchell) are the parents of the bride. Pam Taylor (Loretta Devine) is the mother of the groom. Shonda (Tasha Smith) is Pam's best friend and support system. Willie Earl (Mike Epps) is her brother-in-law. We also meet Blythe (Meagan Good), Aunt Geneva (Valarie Pettiford), and Sebastian (Romeo Miller).
            The battle lines are drawn well before the ferry carries the Taylors to the Watsons' beautiful house on Martha's Vineyard. The Taylors are a blue collar family from Brooklyn and the Watsons are, as we are told repeatedly, rich. A multifaceted collision in the African-American class structure is at hand.
            Mom Pam Taylor, an opinionated postal worker with a self-righteous grasp of her own customs, is seething by the time she steps onto the dock, just looking for an excuse to turn around and leave with the first insult she knows will come her way. And that's what this movie is about: insults. They fly in all directions and on all subjects - money, education, manners, customs, background. We have, in a word, emotional chaos. Director Salim Akil delivers the slights in a series of verbal explosions wrapped in eye rolling resentment. Secrets, lies, and revelations light the fires on both sides. But remember, this is a comedy.
            To make fun on such a fertile field, the cast needs a wink in its collective eye along with a terrific sense of timing. Unfortunately, the leads - Paula Patton and Laz Alonso - lack that sophistication and look weak - victims of the family war that engulfs them. This leaves the movie in the hands of the supporting players, and they pick it up with good spirit. Mike Epps' observant uncle is the essential grand jester. As played by Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine, the mothers' fury comes close to snuffing out the laughter, but that's largely because the writers have let them down. What's missing here is a first rate script.
            The director makes sure that every incident in the episodic plot unfolds in the various glories of Martha's Vineyard - a dock, a ferry, a marsh, the water. We realize once again, with an appropriate belly laugh, that family dysfunction is a universal condition. That's what binds the Taylors and the Watsons together, and it's what binds them to the WASPs with whom they share the beautiful island. In dysfunction, we're all in that same boat.



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