Guess Who (March 15/05)
If nothing else, Guess Who proves that when he's not pranking hapless celebrities, Ashton Kutcher can actually come off as a fairly likeable and charismatic figure. The film marks his second stab at a romantic lead, following the disastrous Just Married, and it's clear that Kutcher has the screen presence required for this kind of a role. And though the movie starts off promisingly enough, it's not long before it becomes bogged down in sitcom-level cliches and unnecessarily dramatic plot developments.
Though it's not being officially billed as such, Guess Who is essentially a contemporary reworking of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - with the twist being that this time around, it's a white guy going to meet his black girlfriend's parents. The story revolves around Simon (Kutcher) and Theresa (Zoe Saldana), said couple who must first overcome the arduous ordeal of telling her parents. Though Theresa's mother is okay with the union, her father - a rigid banker named Percy (Bernie Mac) - makes no effort to hide his feelings of animosity towards Simon.
Guess Who's been directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, a decidedly unimaginative filmmaker who imbues the film with all the style of a UPN sitcom - which is, I suppose, an appropriate choice given the material he's been saddled with. David Ronn, Jay Scherick, and Peter Tolan's screenplay does a nice job of establishing the characters and setting up the seemingly foolproof premise, but inundates the viewer with tired jokes and formulaic twists once Simon arrives at Theresa's home. The various characters are placed into incredibly contrived situations - ie Simon is forced to bunk with Percy - that are shamelessly milked for maximum comedic value, giving the film a distinct air of desperation.
Yet it's the ingratiating performances that keep Guess Who at a level of pleasant diversion, despite an overlong running time and some seriously cliched third-act developments (c'mon, is this really the sort of film that needs that patented fake-breakup?) Kutcher and Saldana are good together, while Mac has smartly toned down his abrasive personality (he's the sort of performer who can easily come off as extremely obnoxious if allowed free reign; see Head of State). As extremely inoffensive entertainment, Guess Who certainly fits the bill - though in terms of complexity, the film is about as deep as an episode of That 70s Show.