When I first saw the trailer for the film Jumping the Broom, I groaned. Another wedding movie. Another tale of two families crashed together, and cultural hijinks ensue.
The “uptown” rich family are all light-skinned saditty (except for the strategically brown Angela Bassett), the “downtown” blue collar family are all brown-skinned ‘hood folk (except for the strategically tan DeRay Davis). The rich people speak French (of course!), the poor people misinterpret it (naturally they only speak Ebonics). I love romantic comedies as much as the next guy, but this culture clash wedding plot seemed overdone, and full of cultural landmines. No thanks, I rather jump the stereotype.
But there is always room for error, and in this case, I’m happy to report that my greatest fears were wrong. Though Jumping the Broom doesn’t reinvent any wedding movie wheels, it does infuse the classic storyline with great acting and likable characters.
WATCH DANAI MARAIRE INTERVIEW THE ‘BROOM’ CAST
The basic plot: After a spate of rough dates, Sabrina (Paula Patton) promises God not to “share her cookies” with anyone else but the man she marries. And then she hits Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso) with her car. Aww. Cue whirlwind romance, then the improbably love road bump — Sabrina is moving to China for a job! What’s a girl in love with a man she’s known for six months to do? You guessed it — get engaged in front of Lincoln Center with El DeBarge (in the flesh!) serenading her in the background. Funny how things work out sometimes, no?
As a wedding movie, Jumping the Broom delivers all the expected clichés: family tension, evil in-laws, a fight scene, someone “calls it off,” and all the movie’s drama is sewn up in a tidy 15 minutes or less. Plus there’s the stereotypical black movie additives, including God as the ever-present fixer of things and giver of strength, a family secret of hidden parentage, and, in the tradition of black weddings everywhere, a line dance (though, spoiler alert: it’s not the electric slide).
However instead of feeling stale, this movie feels familiar and comforting. It may be a plotline that we have heard before, but we’re oh so desperate to see it again and again, simply because there aren’t enough black love films being made. One of the most heartwarming moments of the film is actually the opening credits, as black and white photos of happy black people getting married move across the screen. This is what black people want, need, and crave — images of black love, people triumphing the normal trials, tribulations and milestones of life that supersede race and culture. A wedding is something everyone can relate to.Jumping the Broom really shines on behalf of great acting and convincing characters. Angela Bassett excellently delivers a frosty matriarch ruling her tony Martha’s Vineyard family with an iron fist, always advocating dignity above emotion. Loretta Divine is an equally dominate matriarch of the blue-collar set, who cleaves to her family traditions and morals as her son’s life quickly outpaces her own. Paula Patton takes a turn as the oh-so-sickeningly-cute bride-to-be, executing a level of perkiness that is equally adorable and annoying, which serves her character well.
It’s these family relationships that serve as the crux of the film’s plot. What happens when children grow up and move on? How can you maintain tradition while respecting someone else’s choices? While Loretta Divine’s character struggles with these questions, a voice of reason comes from an unexpected source: Mike Epps. Playing the uncle of the groom-to-be, Epps’ character calls Divine’s character on the carpet for her nasty ways (which at the climax in the movie gets so ugly it’s hard to believe she’ll ever change).
Sony Pictures has invested a lot into the promotion of this film, and for good reason — it is good, and it’s what a lot of black people are looking for. Jumping the Broom is being released in high wedding movie season — two other films, Something Borrowed and Bridesmaids, are being released over the next week as well. However this is the only film that features an all-black cast, and it has been marketed to black audiences, which should bode it well at the box office.
WATCH TRAILER FOR ‘JUMPING THE BROOM’ HERE:
No doubt this film will be a welcome change for Tyler Perry critics, as there is no man in drag, the women aren’t illogically angry, and any stereotypes this movie touches on are much more subtle than Perry’s heavy-handed filming.
However there are similarities that would hopefully draw in Perry fans as well — there is a spiritual undertone (in part thanks to T.D. Jakes, who is one of the film’s producers), it is family-centric and friendly (no nudity or harsh language), plus the film features Perry veteran Tasha Smith as the surprisingly subdued Shonda, who’s just happy to be along for the ride. Not to mention this film is really funny. Though Epps and Davis shine naturally due to their comedic backgrounds, a gold star has to go to scene-stealing Valarie Pettiford as wild Aunt Geneva, who at one point performs a rousing rendition of “Sexual Healing.”
Jumping the Broom is in the tradition of The Best Man, Love and Basketball, Why Did I Get Married? – if you love black love, you will love this movie. While the story isn’t completely new, the characters and acting give this feel good movie life. If this weekend’s box office does well, it will hopefully give life to other stories that black audiences are so desperate to see on-screen.