(by Dustin Putman
"Our marriage, their wedding," terminally bland and boring couple Lucia (America Ferrara) and Marcus (Lance Gross) keep reminding themselves during "Our Family Wedding," a culture clash comedy-cum-atrocity wherein their bickering fathers, tow truck driver Miguel Ramirez (Carlos Mencia) and womanizing radio personality Brad Boyd (Forest Whitaker), nearly destroy the nuptials even before the planning stage has gotten underway. Why the impending Latino bride and African-American groom would even invite these two juvenile, self-centered, abhorrent bastards is anyone's guess. Miguel and Brad may be their respective dads, but one has to draw the line somewhere, and these cretins should be safely standing on the other side of it. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (1999's "The Wood") with the skill of a tone-deaf baboon, "Our Family Wedding" barrels below even the lowest possible expectations to become one of the most offensively tasteless and just plain imbecilic motion pictures of the last few years. So awful that the viewer has to wonder if everyone responsible was under the control of brain-melting hallucinogens during its screenwriting, shooting and post-production stages, the film has, indeed, gone wrong in every way a movie made with recognizable stars, a healthy budget and studio support possibly can. Article continues below
On paper, the plot doesn't sound so bad. With a little thought, a little wit, and a little charm, perhaps the film could have ended up along the lines of 1967's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and its respectable remake, 2005's "Guess Who," as an honest study in modern-day race relations. The sin, then, is in the virulent treatment of the material, with Miguel and Brad—already disliking each other due to a contrived altercation earlier in the day—outraged when their twentysomething children, Lucia and Marcus, announce over dinner that they are engaged. Miguel hasn't met Marcus before this point, and doesn't care that he is about to travel to Laos to help in a charitable Doctors without Borders program; all he sees is Marcus' dark skin and dislikes him on sight. Meanwhile, Brad doesn't care so much about Lucia's ethnicity because he also doesn't care much about getting to know her; all that is important to him is his petty feud with her father. As for the rest of Lucia's family, they are almost as intolerant, with grandmother Cecilia (Lupe Ontiveros) passing out upon seeing Marcus' blackness; younger sister Isabella (Anjelah Johnson) chastising Lucia for wanting to get married at all; and mother Sonia (Diana-Maria Riva) pretty much keeping quiet and in the corner like a good little subservient wife should. On Marcus' side, his mother is out of the picture, father Brad smilingly imagining his ex-wife getting hit by a bus at one point while sleeping with everything that moves. His lawyer/main squeeze Angie (Regina King) is angry when she discovers Brad has been cheating on her, but all is settled when they dance together and he refuses to let her go until she forgives him. Lovely.
"Our Family Wedding" was written by Rick Famuyiwa, Wayne Conley (2002's "Like Mike"), and Malcolm Spellman, and what these three were thinking while they worked on the script is a question for the ages. Making Archie Bunker seem like an open-minded liberal in comparison, the film has nothing to say about bigotry even as it demonstrates just how racially insensitive it—and the characters—are. Filled to bursting with ethnic prejudices, hateful slurs, and disgusting stereotypes (yes, there is even a goat brought in as a wedding sacrifice that, in turn, swallows Viagra pills and goes on a rampage), the act of watching the movie becomes uncomfortable and then downright enraging. The characters are almost universally selfish, each more unpleasant than the next. The few that aren't, like Marcus, Sonia and Angie, would more accurately be viewed as victims rather than protagonists, each one expected to do as they're told and shut up by the other men or women in their lives.
The ensemble cast spend half their time looking like they wish they were anywhere else, and the rest of the time slapping their hand to their forehead as they keep realizing what a mess they have gotten themselves into. Forest Whitaker (2008's "Street Kings") and Carlos Mencia (2007's "The Heartbreak Kid") are left stranded, bringing few qualities to generally deplorable roles as Brad and Miguel. As Marcus, Lance Gross (TV's "House of Payne") is a blank slate, making little impression on the viewer and sharing no chemistry with America Ferrara (2008's "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2"), as Lucia. Ferrara, such a dazzler on TV's "Ugly Betty," is stiff and aloof here, and embarrasses herself all the more in an interminable scene where she is called upon to serenade Marcus—badly. With writing that might have paid some attention to Sonia's long-suffering feelings, Diana-Maria Riva (2009's "17 Again") would be up to the challenge. As is, she's wasted. Finally, what could someone of the caliber of Regina King (2007's "This Christmas") have seen in her nothing part as Angie?
"You know what they say: once you go black...," Brad starts. "...Your credit goes bad," Miguel finishes. Is this supposed to be funny? Is anything in this 101-minute diatribe against diversity meant to be humorous? The sound of the audience's silence broken only by the occasional disbelieving groan makes a case against the comedic attempts of "Our Family Wedding." Furthermore, on the other side of all the physical and emotional cruelty on display, are lessons ultimately learned? No. Are relationships strengthened? No. Do Miguel and Brad learn to live in perfect harmony while putting their own hang-ups behind the happiness of their children? The picture would like to have it that way by shoehorning in group laughing sessions when circumstances otherwise get too dicey, but it is strictly soppy, superficial, and not to be believed for a second. Adding insult to an already-fatal injury, the end credits roll while epilogue snapshots reveal that Lucia's sister Isabella brings home an Asian fiancé and his traditional-looking parents to meet Miguel, much to his ranting dismay. This cheap, senseless gag thus confirms once and for all that her father has not changed his ways and is as prejudiced as ever. The mind positively boggles at the sickening, hypocritical dogmatism on display in "Our Family Wedding," and then boggles some more at the mere thought that director Rick Famuyiwa believed anyone would fall for what amounts to a rancid ode to the quainter, simpler times before integration and that pesky Civil Rights Movement got in the way. A honeymoon in Hell would be a pleasurable respite to sitting through this drivel again.