Guess Who

Thirty-eight years after Sidney Poitier chowed down with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, guess who’s coming to dinner? Why it’s none other than That 70’s Show Ashton Kutcher and comedian Bernie Mac, proving that interracial relationships are still grist for the mill. Unlike the groundbreaking 1967 comedy, which had something relevant to say about the subject, Guess Who plays the idea strictly for laughs, sidestepping all but superficial social ramifications.

In 1967, the idea of interracial relationships was still a hot potato, even if the prospective groom was the charming, likeable Poitier. Framing a modern comedy around a classic but extremely dated portrait serves no purpose. In Guess Who, the tables have been turned. Now it’s the black family’s turn to be shocked when their daughter (the lovely Zoe Saldana) brings home white boy Kutcher.

Quite honestly, you would think in this day and age the parents, played by Bernie Mac and Judith Scott, would be more concerned their daughter was dating someone with an extremely bad haircut. Yet the writers play out this flip-flop scenario as if they were breaking new ground, turning every scene between Kutcher and Mac into an adversarial encounter. It doesn’t take long before this verbal ping pong game becomes tedious, bordering on farce.

Three writers took turns updating and tinkering with the original formula, and the best they could come up with are lame jokes involving go-carts and lingerie. The closest they come to exploring issues of race is a dinner exchange that feels more like an awkward punch line. When the writers resorted to putting the adversaries in bed together, I rolled up my eyes so hard I almost got whiplash.

Mac is appropriately constipated, a master of the slow burn; you just wish he had a better sparring partner than the lightweight Kutcher. It’s easy to see Mac as a successful family man who wants the best for his family, but the material requires him to play his best scenes so larger than life he never connects on a human level.

If director Kevin Rodney Sullivan (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) had brought Guess Who down a notch, we might have been able to accept these characters as something more than caricatures.

As directed, every subtle moment becomes a platform for something even more outrageous, forcing us to abandon all hope that Guess Who will be anything more than another obnoxious comedy with something important to say but lacking the guts.

Who Cares?

Dinner Rehash Lacks Soul Food


Ashton Kutcher, Bernie Mac, Zoe Saldana, Judith Scott, Hal Williams. Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Rated PG-13. 105 Minutes.


Comments are closed.