Simon (Ashton Kutcher) and his girlfriend, Theresa (Zoe Saldana) are going to suburban New Jersey to meet her parents on the weekend of their 25th Anniversary. During the ride there, he learns that she hasn’t told her father that he is white. Upon meeting her parents (Bernie Mac and Judith Scott), her father, Percy immediately takes a disliking to him. He doesn’t trust him but insists it’s not because he is white. Throughout the weekend, events escalate until no one is talking to anyone else and everyone has to look into their hearts and figure out why they love each other.
“Guess Who” is a strange project for Hollywood. Making remakes and ‘reinterpretations’ is nothing new. Hollywood seems to dislike attempts to create anything new, preferring sequels and remakes. Many years ago, musicals were often made from dramas and comedies. Currently, a couple of films are being made of hit Broadway musicals based on comedies. But why make a comedy based on a drama from the late 60s, starring Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier. Cutting edge for its time, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” is an interesting film, for the time, but now appears very dated. Presumably, the filmmakers were attracted to the thought of updating the material and mining it for laughs.
The ‘updating’ comes from switching the races of all characters. Instead of a white woman taking a black man home to meet her parents, a black woman takes a white man home to meet her parents. This is pretty much the extent of the filmmaker’s attempts to update the material. Percy’s family lives in a suburban home which could have been lifted out of the original drama. His values are pretty much from the late 60s as well. Before he meets Simon, Percy is excited because he does a credit report on the new boyfriend and learns that he works with a large stock brokerage and has a great future. When he first meets Simon, he doesn’t like him because of the color of his skin. Simon and Theresa are given the more modern sensibilities. They are living in a modern loft, she’s an artist, they talk a lot about their feelings. There is a single moment in which Theresa tells her father that she and Simon are frequently treated differently by other people. This is pretty much the only attempt to address the modern aspect of two people living in an interracial relationship.
All of this would be excusable, I guess, if the film were extremely funny. Instead, the filmmakers seem intent on recycling situations from “Meet The Parents”, but watering the down until they resemble something more like “Father of The Bride”. Simon is nervous when he first meets Percy, so naturally he lies about sports. He concocts a ludicrous, and frankly strange, lie about working with Jeff Gordon and NASCAR drivers. You can probably guess where that joke will go. Simon quits his job the day before he goes to meet her parents. Again, you can probably guess where this will lead the action. Percy doesn’t trust Simon, so he sleeps with him in a sofa bed in the basement. Percy doesn’t want to dance the tango with his wife at the ceremony and Simon’s mom ran a dance studio. I wonder where that will go. The finale is also one of the most forced and contrived I have seen in some time.
The filmmakers have relied on cheap sitcom laughs and situations, robbing the film of any depth and any laughs.
“Guess Who” is a mind-numbing diversion, suitable only if you have nothing else to do.