Sweeping Through the Rom-Com Clichés
Jumping the Broom plays it by the numbers in this "rich girl meets working-class guy" romance. But lots of sins can be forgiven in a movie that includes Angela Bassett and Mike Epps. Cue the laughs.
The filmmakers certainly know how to titillate: The movie opens with a close-up of Sabrina fastening her bra -- from the back, that is; this movie is strictly PG. She's just had yet another one-night stand gone bad, and she's praying fervently to the woman upstairs: "I gave up the cookies for a nice body and some mediocre conversation ... I don't think I can even spell 'mediocre.' " If God gets her out of this very sticky situation, she promises -- promises! -- she won't give up the cookies again until her wedding night.
This will, of course, be easier said than done, because in the very next scene, Sabrina meets Jason, the love of her life. Sparks fly, and soon Jason's on bended knee in front of Lincoln Center, and wait -- is that El DeBarge serenading on a grand piano on the sidewalk? It's all too rushed, too breathless, too unbelievable. The car accident! The proposal! El DeBarge! At one screening, several men in the audience actually groaned out loud.
Fortunately for the viewer, the action quickly moves between Martha's Vineyard, where Sabrina's high-society family is planning the wedding to end all weddings, and Brooklyn, N.Y., where Jason's working-class mother is nursing a giant-sized grudge because she has yet to meet her baby boy's intended. And when said baby boy sends a limo and a driver to pick her up the day before the wedding -- and the bride announces that she has no desire to literally jump the broom -- well, it's on. Class warfare breaks out on the island, and no one emerges unscathed.
As the young lovebirds, Alonso and Patton have a sweet and believable chemistry, even though one can't help wishing that Patton would tone things down by one or six notches. But this movie belongs to the ensemble cast, who are let loose to do their thing. The laughs come quick and easy; Epps is a one-man Greek chorus ad-libbing on the follies of others.
And then there are the movie's two matrons. Facing off against each other, Bassett and Devine are formidable opponents. The insults, both passive-aggressive and aggressive-aggressive, fly. Devine, in particular, turns in a bravura comedic performance as the widowed mother who can't stand to see a young hussy make off with her man -- er, her son.
But both women are at their best in scenes where no words are spoken, like when Bassett, after receiving devastating news, shows the vulnerable side of the lady who lunches. And I'm still thinking about Devine silently flipping through a photo album, smiling and crying, while Al Green wails in the background. For that scene alone, I'm willing to forgive a bushel of rom-com clichés.
Teresa Wiltz is senior editor of The Root.