Every so often in a bad movie, there's one good scene just dying to get out. Clearly, it's the aberration, because there's nothing else to recommend the film—but for a fleeting moment, everything just goes right.
Our Family Wedding can claim such a scene, evidence of that old adage about a stopped clock being right twice a day. Movies about weddings—especially romantic comedies about weddings—are ordinarily hard to stomach, and this one is no different: The closer the couple gets to the altar, the more out-of-control their circumstances become.
In this case, it's an interracial wedding comedy with America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) and Lance Gross (House of Payne) caught in the eye of the storm. Their fathers (Carlos Mencia and Forest Whitaker, respectively) try to one-up each other every step of the way, and disaster usually follows.
However, for about 90 seconds, Our Family Wedding is tolerable. As the seating chart for the big day is being put together, Whitaker pictures in his mind where his ex-wife might sit (in the path of an oncoming bus), while Mencia tries to figure out the right table for his hard-core gangster cousin, fresh out of the joint. No, it's not the breakfast montage from Citizen Kane, but it's a hell of a lot better than what surrounds it.
The real disappointment isn't that Our Family Wedding is mostly unfunny, mostly unoriginal and mostly unappealing; it's that the film never tries to go beneath the surface. The comedy is rather racial in nature, gently prodding the black and Hispanic communities about this or that. While the filmmakers certainly have no responsibility to present something more incisive, what good does it do anyone to keep dusting off outdated stereotypes for the purposes of cheap, infrequent laughs? Couple that with the restrictive formula of a wedding comedy, and this film starts circling the drain in a hurry.
There could be a real culture clash to shine a light on, even if as an aside to the rest of the silliness—but to ignore it in favor of tired, hammy pratfalls and old jokes about whether or not what they say about black men is true clearly isn't the way to go, especially when it's as poorly written as this.
The overbearing parents push Ferrera and Gross into a very small corner of the film, which is unfortunate. Going back to Real Women Have Curves and even in the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie, Ferrera has shown genuine talent, particularly with more emotionally desperate material. But she has so few chances to stitch together moments in her character's journey that she's reduced to being a bystander for two bulls in a china shop.
Surprisingly, it isn't Carlos Mencia stinking up the joint; it's Forest Whitaker, who has a Best Actor Oscar to his credit. Mencia is mostly believable as a hard-working father who doesn't think anyone is good enough for his daughter. Whitaker, on the other hand, exudes some strange kind of self-contentment that makes him hard to bear. He's barely audible unless he's hurling insults at Mencia, and seems more concerned with the clothes he's wearing than anything going on beyond them.
In a way, it's a shame that Our Family Wedding even has the one good scene. That scene would be much more at home in a better film, and this movie would probably be better off living up to the only potential it shows: blissful ignorance.