Our Family Wedding
By Carl Kozlowski
March 12, 2010
Way back in 1967, Hollywood released a “message picture” about the rapidly changing state of America’s race relations, with Sidney Poitier playing a black doctor who causes a stir by attending dinner at his white girlfriend’s parents’ house, in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” America’s a bigger melting pot than ever now. Yet tensions remain—often among minority populations struggling to carve out their fair share of the ever-dwindling American Dream. As a result, co-writer/director Rick Famuyiwa’s new dramedy film Our Family Wedding should have its finger on the pulse of the tensions between Los Angeles’ black and Latino populations. But despite some lively and touching performances from the immense cast headed by America Ferrera, Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia, and several boisterously funny moments, much of Wedding often feels muted and by-the-numbers.
The film follows the events that transpire when Lucia Ramirez (Ferrera) reveals to her traditional Roman Catholic parents, tow-truck-business owner Miguel (Mencia) and Sonia (Diana Maria Riva), that she’s marrying her black boyfriend, Marcus Boyd (the immensely likable Lance Gross, from the TBS sitcom House of Payne). Marcus, meanwhile, hasn’t told his playboy radio-DJ father Brad Boyd (Whitaker) the same news either.
As both families meet for the first time at a special dinner where the engagement is announced, the two family patriarchs (Mencia and Whitaker) immediately clash not only because of their respective racial biases, but also because Miguel towed Brad’s luxury car earlier that day against his will. Soon the two alpha males are wreaking havoc with nearly every aspect of the wedding, making the couple question whether there can really be true love between their ethnicities.
Our Family Wedding is a small, character-based film that slides off the rails anytime a pair of characters engage in a serious discussion of their relationships. These moments are unfortunately repetitive and feel like time-fillers compared to the often-raucous quality of the comedic scenes, such as when someone in the Ramirez party accidentally unleashes a goat on the wedding grounds, leading to a series of well-staged moments of mayhem.
The film represents a big step up for Ferrera and Mencia in particular, as Ferrera attempts to regain her footing in the feature-film world now that her breakthrough ABC series Ugly Betty has been canceled and Mencia tries to show a sensitive side beyond the bluster that has made him a superstar standup comic. Both come through, turning in well-rounded performances that complement Whitaker’s all-too-rarely shown comedic side.
Overall, Our Family Wedding likely won’t be remembered for a lifetime, but it is a pleasantly diverting tale of successful minority Americans that portrays marriage, true love and hard work as the means to a happy life. In breaking through the stereotypes of garbage like Soul Plane to deliver a tale that’s just plain entertaining without setting the world on fire like Precious, Wedding provides its own low-key push forward towards understanding and harmony in our ever-changing populace.