Who’s In It: Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo
The Basics: It’s 1964. It’s the South. Dakota Fanning is on the run from her bad father. Her caretaker Jennifer Hudson is on the run from the law. Together they stumble upon an oasis of strong-woman calm and stability at beekeeper Queen Latifah’s cozy, Pepto Bismol-pink home. Then come the lessons and the growth and the laughter and the tears and the secrets and the Civil Rights movement and the dignity. And if that sounds sarcastic it’s only a defense mechanism against the film’s onslaught of truly affecting, shamelessly manipulative heartwarmth, my seen-this-sort-of-thing-before brain fighting the movie’s adorable demand to hug the audience into submission.
What’s The Deal: What’s nice about a movie like this is that it doesn’t even pretend like it’s got something new to offer. It’s content to be sweet and comforting, as though someone was forcing you to accept warm-from-the-oven cookies. And a nice hot bath afterward. In fact, you can take the plate of cookies into the bath with you if you like. Would you like that? Of course you would. Two hours of eating cookies and you don’t even get sick from them. Then Queen Latifah is going to read you a bedtime story and tuck you in and kiss your forehead. And you want that too. You’d kind of have to be made of frozen rocks to resist.
Turnabout Is Fair Play. Or Something Like That: In Hollywood, it’s like there’s this law of physics that states that a movie can’t have complex characters of both genders. If it’s a guy movie then the female characters are all The Girlfriend, The Wife, The Slut Who Gets Punished, The No-Nonsense Lady Judge, etc. And in movies like this where powerful-sisterhood-makes-everything-alright, the guys are all The Drunk Dad, The Mean Redneck That Hits Ladies, The Sweet Young Man, That Racist Guy Over There. Don’t ask me why this is. It just is.
Forgiving The Previous Crime, Here’s My Actual Beef With This Movie: No singing. Three singers in the cast and no singing. In fact, Jennifer Hudson sang more in the Sex and the City movie than she does here. This is a woman with an Oscar based on her ability to belt it out loudly throughout an entire feature. Why ignore the thing she does best? And Alicia Keys? She plays the cello.
Career Rebound For: Dakota Fanning. If you dared to watch the miserable, hilarious Hounddog, now you can pretend it never happened.