There are rules, of course, when it comes to making a rom-com. The boy must get the girl. The girl must get the boy. They will invariably “meet cute.” All sorts of impediments will obstruct their exceedingly convoluted path to happily ever after; hilarity, havoc and heartbreak will ensue … you get the picture.
If the filmmakers are lucky, while they’re fiddling with this age-old formula, some sort of alchemy will happen, and the result will be a When Harry Met Sally — or a Love Jones. If they stumble and add too much of one ingredient and too little of another, then, well, you’re stuck with the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Or a Just Wright.
Jumping the Broom, the latest entrée in the romantic-comedy blockbuster sweepstakes, fits into neither of those categories. It’s certainly not destined to be a classic; nor will it go down in cinematic ignominy.
Starring Laz Alonso as Jason and Paula Patton as Sabrina, and directed by Salim Akil (The Game), Jumping the Broom comes in squarely in the middle of the pack. It certainly meets all of the rom-com criteria, from the cute meeting (Sabrina literally runs over Jason in her sports car) to the ensuing hilarity (two words: Mike Epps) to the obstacles blocking the way to Happyland (that would be Loretta Devine as the mother-in-law from hell).
If anything, the filmmakers focus too much on playing things by the numbers instead of letting things flow free-form at times. As soon as T.D. Jakes (one of the producers), playing a minister counseling the young couple, announces, “Even a soul mate can really test you,” it’s time to cue the testing. Plot, meet predictable.
Still, a good cast can overcome a myriad of shortcomings — in this case, an oft-times plodding script; an awkward marriage of a chaste, profanity-free, God-filled story and raunchy masturbation jokes; and, it must be said, Patton’s over-the-top acting.
On the plus side, Jumping the Broom boasts a stellar cast, with enough talent to keep the viewer distracted: Alonso; Devine; Epps as the country cousin taking everyone down a peg; Angela Bassett as Sabrina’s snotty, French-speaking mother; Tasha Smith as the reluctant cougar to a very young swain; Brian Stokes Mitchell playing the husband-dad with a secret; and Valarie Pettiford as Sabrina’s peripatetic aunt, who’s got an even bigger secret.