The Tyler Perrification of American Negro Cinema™ is how his success has basically ethered that of other black directors. As Spike Lee would attest, it's damn near impossible for a brotha to get a movie greenlit right now. If you aren't adhering to that low-budget, high-coonery, church-friendly format Perry's perfected, you're prolly headed straight-to-DVD, which is a real death sentence because nobody buys DVD's anymore. One guy who's actually managed to stay eating in this climate is TD Jakes, and his latest production Jumping The Broom (now on DVD!) shows how two men's variations on the same Christian-centric theme can be so dramatically different in quality and content.
Jakes' prior cinematic offerings 2004's Woman Thou Art Loosed and 09's Not Easily Broken wove stories of Christian redemption into dramas about everyday people with real (sometimes too real) issues. While Perry depends on hamhanded preachy asides and ear-shattering gospel sangin' to make his point, Jakes' characters seem to come to their own revelations in a far more subtle (and thus realistic) form. Those were both quality films, serious dramas with good dialogue, good actors, and realistic depictions of how spirituality plays out in the real world. I loved em' both, but neither did particularly well at the box office. I'm not sure what that says about Black America, but it surely says something. The fact that Jumping The Broom basically caught a brick at the box office also says something about Black America. Sadly, we missed out on a pretty good movie here.
Jumping stars Paula Patton as a lawyer who swears off giving up her cookies until marriage after a series of pointless flings. When she meets an equally successful investment banker (Laz Alonzo) by accident (literally) a love affair is quickly sparked and a shotgun wedding on Martha's Vineyard is lined up mere weeks later. One little problem: The bride and groom's families haven't ever met, which sets up some predictable fish-out-of-water hijinks as his ghetto fam mixes with her upper crust family.
I don't want to give away much more of the plot here, you'd really just have to see the movie yourself because telling much more throws us into spoiler territory. The usually deplorable Loretta Devine keeps on working, and she's quite effective here as the groom's mother who just can't let go of her son. Angela Bassett plays the bride's angry, secretive mom with equal aplomb. A bountiful cast (I mean, seriously, there's like 400 people in this damn movie!) of ancillary characters like Tasha Smith, Lil Romeo, Mike Epps, Meagan Good, and Gary Dourdan provide the requisite sideplots and background filler conversation without distracting from the main event. Cameos by Jakes and El Debarge (!) round out the lineup. Like the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies, this is a roster light on big names, but full of talent. The net result is a well-executed, smart drama that never takes itself too seriously.
If there's one drawback it's how quickly and unrealistically the film's numerous (and deep!) issues get resolved. It's almost like director Salim Akil looked up and realized "oh sh*t, we only got 10 minutes of film left?" and tried to tie up everything at the last moment. It somewhat took away from the overall enjoyment of a really good film, but that could just be me.
Final Verdict - Stop complaining about the lack of quality black films and go rent this movie now. This is a well-written, well-acted, well-directed drama with an all black cast. It (only) pulled in $37M during it's theatrical release, which probably ensures Jakes Woman Thou Art Loosed : On The 7th Day (due out later this year) will see the light of day. Still, Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family made almost that much on opening weekend. I'm not sure what that says about Black America, but it surely says something. 4 Stars (Out Of 5)
Question: Did you see Jumping The Broom?!?