Who's In It: Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Loretta Devine, Laz Alonso, Meagan Good, Tasha Smith, Mike Epps, DeRay Davis, Julie Bowen, Valarie Pettiford, Romeo, Gary Dourdan
The Basics: Sabrina (Patton) and Jason (Alonso) have been in a whirlwind romance for a mere 6 months and are going to tie the knot. They haven't done any of the usual "nerve-wracking meeting the family for the first time" stuff, so they're taking care of it at their wedding. Jason's family is coming from Brooklyn over to Martha's Vineyard, where Sabrina's family has a house similar to what one character likens to the Kennedy compound. Hilarity, tears, and class wars ensue. One of the conflicts includes whether or not Jason and Sabrina are going to jump the broom at their ceremony, which is a tradition in his family (and also with Gypsies and the Welsh, in case you didn't know). Just another wedding with the usual drama…but this time, the Marvin Gaye sing-a-long really means something.
What's the Deal: Full disclosure: I love movies about families desperately trying to relate because they are stuck with each other. I've seen a ton of them, and although this flick isn't particularly inventive, it is still engaging. I laughed a lot, was horrified at times, and ultimately felt satisfied at the end--just like Christmas at my house. The cast completely sells this movie and the script gives them some fun moments to work with, even with its imperfections.
Serious Acting Chops: Angela Bassett's ridiculously toned arms represent the major muscle this film provides with its cast. Even Romeo is growing up nicely as the oversexed and persistent Sebastian. Mike Epps shows up with his dazzling smile and irresistible swagger, speaking foreign languages and claiming that there's "nothing wrong with biscuits and gravy." The movie is stolen by Loretta-who-truly-is-Devine as the cranky matriarch barely utilizing her anger management courses. Even supporting members of the cast each give the movie a boost. Kudos to the casting director and director Salim Akil.
Mmm, Delicious: There is an abundance of food metaphors here. This includes Sabrina making a deal with God not to give up "her cookies" as easily, which leads her to meeting Jason (well, actually hitting him with her car, but same difference). Later, Mrs. Taylor bakes Jason one of her infamous pies that he refuses to share with Sabrina until the aforementioned cookies are given up. And sophisticated and aloof Blythe (Good) is described as a surprising type of fruit by Chef (Dourdan), and even though the man is wearing fishing waders he still manages to be taken seriously. Hoorah for sex and other realizations disguised as food metaphors.
The (White) Elephant in the Room: Julie Bowen plays Amy the wedding planner who apparently grew up in a snow drift somewhere without a black person in sight. At every turn she is awkwardly calling someone girlfriend or asking rude questions about skin tone and sunblock. I wasn't sure if her character was supposed to be charmingly clueless or alarmingly ignorant. I was so happy that she disappeared halfway into the film, because I wanted to reach into the movie and beat her with the nearest centerpiece.