Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Starring Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Saldana, Judith Scott, RonReaco Lee, Kellee Stewart. (2005, PG-13, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 25, 2005
Percy Jones (Mac) and his wife, Marilyn (Scott), are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary by throwing a party and renewing their vows, but little do they know they are about to be punk'd by Ashton Kutcher in the role of Simon Green, the boyfriend of their daughter Theresa (Saldana), who has every intention of promoting Simon to the job of son-in-law. Guess Who is a contemporary takeoff on the Stanley Kramer classic of socially relevant filmmaking Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. It states the painfully obvious to say that Kutcher is no Sidney Poitier, nor are the other players on par with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Even though the thought of such dubious replacements is sure to offend the film purists, these naysayers are not likely to make up strong contingents of the Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac fan base. And that's who this movie is seeking to lure. Although the movie's twist is the introduction of a white suitor into a family of African-Americans, the movie is more geared to Meet the Parents-style humor than social relevance. It's telling that Kutcher and Saldana have zero chemistry as a loving couple, which makes it kind of difficult to honestly root for them to overcome their troubles in paradise. The main attraction in Guess Who is between Mac and Kutcher, who fitfully bond, à la De Niro and Stiller, but with racial jokes added to the mix. Mac exudes a professionalism that carries him through every scene, even when racing with his future son-in-law in go-karts. On the other hand, Kutcher seems out of place in this comedy: He's too buttoned-down to have much personality at all. The makers of Guess Who appear to have given more thought to targeting an audience than building a believable movie. Yet director Sullivan, a TV veteran, manages to keep some of the racial humor barbed and well-focused, giving Guess Who a slightly transgressive feel in its best moments. The film will not win any peace awards, but it is more palatable than its preview trailers make it out to be.