This weekend marks the debut of Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection — and in a rather interesting coincidence the 20th anniversary of the release of Eddie Murphy’s Boomerang. I have not seen the latest Madea flick and have no intention of doing so. Not being a Tyler Perry hater, I just don’t find his brand of humor to be funny and as a lover of film and a writer, I can’t ignore gaping plot holes.
But Boomerang? BOOMERANG?? Twenty years later and it is still one of my favorite rom-coms, not just of black rom-coms, but rom-coms in general. There are so many similarities between a film like Madea’s Witness Protection and Boomerang — like their comedic natures, black stars and Perry’s tendency to feature an ensemble cast — but that is where the parallels end. Movies like Perry’s, for all their entertainment value, truly underscore how great a film Boomerang remains. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to commemorate the dopeness of Boomerang, which will unwittingly illustrate how many movies of today tend to fall a little short of capturing that same magic.
You can’t lose with a cast that includes Eddie Murphy, Eartha Kitt, David Allen Grier, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, Robin Givens, Grace Jones and small, but memorable roles for Tisha Campbell-Martin and Chris Rock. The most recent comparison, in terms of an ensemble cast, was the surprise hit Think Like a Man, which featured over a dozen black Hollywood stars such as Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson and funny man/scene stealer Kevin Hart. But even with that diverse bunch of brown La La Land residents, they are no match for the seasoned actors and entertainers in Boomerang who brought to life the fabulousness of Strangé, the vulnerable yet smooth Marcus Graham and the man-eating Jacqueline. Plus, I don’t know about you, but although I did enjoy Think Like a Man, I had very low expectations due to the Steve Harvey book connection, plus the fact that black romantic comedies have not been a frequent sight at the box office. Watching Think Like a Man was kind of like eating from a food truck at 3 am: whatever you eat, it’s going to be the greatest thing you’ve ever had in your life because, well, you’re hungry.
There are so many memorable lines from Boomerang. John Witherspoon’s “Bang, bang, bang!” Eartha Kitt’s “Maaaarcuuuusss.” Everything Grace Jones said in the restaurant scene (which would have to be redacted to be published here), and of course, the only Halle Berry scene I have ever memorized: “I’m sick and tired of men using love as if it’s some disease you just catch. Love should have brought your ass home last night.” (Cue Toni Braxton…) Boomerang had a very good balance of romance/drama and comedy and the great lines were spread throughout the film among cast members and scenes. As far as big budget black romantic comedies (Boomerang was made for $40 million in 1992, Love Jones for $10 million in 1997) , Boomerang is singular in terms of quality writing. But Gina Prince-Bythewood did a great job writing Love and Basketball ($20 million budget in 2000). While Boomerang stands out, hopefully other similar films will someday reach its pinnacle.
When we met Marcus Graham 20 years ago, he was a handsome, successful corporate panty raider who dismissed women for the smallest of infractions (Lela Rochon’s toes were a deal-breaker), regularly yucked it up with his friends about his playboy antics, but eventually found himself falling for two very different women at the same time, one of whom was supposed to be dating his good friend. There are more sub-plots in the film, but those are the basics. It’s a love triangle with unexpected (and often funny) twists and turns. There have been several “cute” black rom-coms in the past 20 years, but none of them seem to have gotten as much right as Boomerang. Black films which subtleties such as these remain rare.
So do we need to put Eddie Murphy in a time machine so he can get back to that sweet spot and make another classic romantic comedy? Nah. There are plenty of talented black filmmakers out there in various genres. Ava Duvernay (Middle of Nowhere), Dee Rees (Pariah) and Sanaa Hamri (Something New) are a few of them. If we want to see higher quality in any type of product we consume, first off, we have to stop giving money to support crap. I refuse to go see a movie solely because the actors or filmmakers are black. (On a sidenote, I thought the guilt marketing behind Red Tails was a terrible idea. I want to hear about why a movie is great not why I should feel obligated to see it.) Secondly, we have to support the good stuff. If an independent movie’s trailer looks good, give it a shot. If you loved a film so much you want to see it again, do it. We have to support what we want to see in order to see more of it.
To paraphrase a scene from Boomerang: If you are pretty certain that any film (black, white or whatever) is going to be a stinker, what are you doing in the theater watching it? Exactly. Thank you to the creators and stars of Boomerang for setting the bar of black romantic comedies so high, and giving us something stellar to remind us of what black films can be.
Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope.