March 18, 2010

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Our Family Wedding (PG-13)
Families and cultures collide as two attractive people try to have a low-key wedding in Our Family Wedding, a very standard meet-my-wacky-parents wedding comedy given a bit of buoyancy by its central couple.

That couple is Brad Boyd (Forest Whitaker), a deep-voiced L.A. radio host who loves the ladies but is afraid of commitment, and Miguel Ramirez (Carlos Mencia), a family man and owner of a successful auto repair business. Brad is African-American, Miguel is Mexican-American. Brad is a single man, sowing wild oats and slowly breaking the heart of his longtime female buddy Angela (Regina King); Miguel is a tradition-focused dad-guy whose dearest wish seems to be the success of his children and who has forgotten to make his wife Sonia (Diana-Maria Riva) feel sexy and wanted. They meet cute when Miguel, whose usual tow truck operators have called in sick that day, shows up to tow Brad’s car, which is parked illegally. Shouting and mild ethnicity-related insults ensue.

Meanwhile, their children (technically, the central romantic couple) Marcus (Lance Gross) and Lucia (America Ferrera) are secretly living across the country in New York and are engaged. They need to get married lickety-split so Brad can go off to Laos and be a do-good doctor, but first they have to tell their respective families about each other and Lucia needs to break the news that she’s dropped out of law school to become a teacher. So each youngster visits their parents, sits them down and calmly explains the situation and after giving them time to acclimate to the new reality, they introduce them to their new in-laws.

Kidding! Nobody does anything calmly in a wedding movie.

Instead, Brad and Miguel meet each other and their children at a restaurant at which they engage in all sorts of shouting followed by forced politeness. Lucia attempts to smooth things over by not coming completely clean about the rest of her life changes. Rather than give the couple the small wedding they’ve requested, the two dads try to out-do each other in inserting cultural traditions into an ever expanding wedding that tests the resiliency of the new couple.

Pretty standard fare, with the only big difference being that instead of a white family merging with a colorfully ethnic family, we have two non-white ethnic groups coming together. But this is not the Spike Lee version of that story; you’ll get no commentary on black-brown relations here. The differences quickly become just an opportunity for some George Lopez-level jokes and an excuse to have a mariachi band show up in the final act. But perhaps that’s OK. Having the only real “but he’s black!” moments come from the nutty old-fashioned Mexican grandma is perhaps where we actually are as a society. The cultural differences quickly become less important than questions about how the respective careers of the young couple and their different upbringings (Marcus the son of a single-and-dating dad, Lucia the daughter of a traditional nuclear family) will affect their marriage.

Not that the movie does more than scratch the surface of those issues either. This is a comedy, after all — pratfalls and overflowing toilets and runaway goats are the purpose here. And, if runaway goats and dad vs. dad hijinks are what you’re looking for, you could do worse than Our Family Wedding. C+

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief strong language. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa and written by Wayne Conley, Malcolm Spellman and Rick Famuyiwa, Our Family Wedding is an hour and 43 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Fox Searchlight Pictures.