Susan Granger’s review of “Jumping the Broom” (TriStar Pictures)
There’s a culture clash when two African-American families from divergent socioeconomic backgrounds get together to celebrate a wedding on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
After a disastrous one-night stand, corporate lawyer Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) vows to remain celibate until marriage. Then she accidentally hits handsome Jason Taylor (Laz Alonzo) with her Audi. He’s an investment banker and, after a chaste five months of dating, he proposes to her outside Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. She’s just been offered a lucrative job in China and he’s agreed to go with her. All they have to do is get married first -and that’s easier said than done.
Sabrina’s snobbish, pretentious parents, Claudine and Greg (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell), insist on hosting the wedding weekend at their sumptuous Martha’s Vineyard seaside estate. “Our family was never slaves,” Claudine Watson explains. “We owned slaves.”
“You need to get down off your high horse and come back to Earth – because you’re black,” snaps Jason’s outspoken mother, Pam (Loretta Devine), a U.S. postal worker from Brooklyn. She arrives with Willie Earl (Mike Epps), the brother of her late husband, and her best friend, Shonda (Tasha Smith), and then refuses to eat the food because, as Pam explains, “The shrimp is cold!” Plus, there’s Amy (Julie Bowen), the clueless white wedding planner, and the requisite last-minute revelations.
The title stems from an African-American wedding custom that dates back to when slaves were not permitted to marry and they, therefore, had to create their own traditions to mark this special occasion. Their friends would lay a broom on the floor, and the new couple would jump over it, symbolizing the start of their life together.
While screenwriters Elizabeth Hunter and Arlene Gibb, along with veteran television director Salim Akil, combine their slight nuptial farce with conventional melodrama, the result is somewhat uneven – with matriarchs Bassett and Devine exuding such hostility that it’s difficult to lighten the mood.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jumping the Broom” is a sparring 6, crammed full of familiar stereotypes.