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America Ferrera and Lance Gross in Our Family Wedding.

Scott Garfield

1 out of 4 stars


Our Family Wedding

  • Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
  • Written by Rick Famuyiwa, Malcolm Spellman and Wayne Conley
  • Starring Lance Gross and America Ferrera
  • Classification: PG

To its everlasting credit, Our Family Wedding raises and then boldly addresses a question that has plagued many a Hollywood flick over many a decade. The time-honoured question is simply this: What does a movie do when it lacks even the semblance of a plot? Well, the three-part answer here is pure genius: (1) Play softball; (2) Start a food fight; (3) Cast a goat. Yes, a goat - I kid you not.

And I kid you only a little about the complete absence of plot. There is a faint, derivative echo of one, easily summarized thus: Romeo and Juliet brushes up against Meet the Parents after colliding with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The star-crossed lovers are Marcus the African-American (Lance Gross) and Lucia the Mexican-American (America Ferrera). They announce their plan to marry, prompting the two families to fall into an immediate tizzy, for reasons that require no explanation beyond the apparent fact that blacks and Latinos don't, as a rule, much like each other.

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Standing at the dizzy apex of this tizzy are the respective dads (Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia) who, like fathers in every dull situation comedy, decidedly do not know best. Happily, the mothers and aunts and sisters and grannies are somewhat less clueless, at least enough to assure us that things will turn out just fine - that prejudices will be overcome, that love will find its way.

To anyone who has ever sparked up a TV set, let alone entered a movie theatre, all this is perfectly evident in the first five minutes. By then, the excuse for a plot has already exhausted itself, and we know to a certainty what will happen. More to the point, the writers know that we know. But here's the intriguing bit: They don't care. Rather, their job as diligent Tinseltown hacks is simply to devise ways of filling up the remaining 90 minutes.

To that time-killing end, your typical screenwriter would supplement the barely existing plot with a bunch of barely existing subplots. Not in this case. Sure, there's a token nod in that direction - the black and Mexican dads both must rekindle romances with old flames - but this too is telegraphed in the opening frames. So, really, no subplots either.

Enter those three strokes of genius. On the evidence here, it's now perfectly permissible to be watching (okay, half-watching) a movie and have a softball game break out, apropos of nothing but the paramount need to get to Minute 95. Ditto for the food fight, whereupon a pair of card-carrying adults suddenly start flinging baked goods at each other, further pushing them and us toward that cherished finish line. And just when you think such clock-draining brilliance can't be topped, along comes the goat, which, in an impressive display of interspecies acting, plays the bull in the china shop. Truly. At loose in a house, the goat breaks a lot of china, just before trotting into the bathroom and gorging on Dad's stash of Viagra. Now if there's anything funnier than a goat busting your flatware, it's a horny goat busting your … well, 'nuff said.

Except this: In the studios' imitative world, a ground-breaking film like Our Family Wedding is sure to enjoy a wide influence. And I for one can't wait for the next plotless picture to up the ante - wow, maybe a whole team of goats, playing softball even while flinging food and humping stray humans. Hurray for Hollywood.

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About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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