In 1967, a bold new film was made - a young White woman brings her boyfriend home to her parents; he is handsome, successful - and Black. In an era when interracial dating was still considered taboo, this love story was daring and controversial. So much so, the lead character (Sidney Poitier) had to "make up" for being Black by being a debonair, wealthy physician who lived in Switzerland. The parents of the young woman were played by two of the most respected figures in Hollywood at the time: Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. The legends were a necessity to the film, otherwise audiences may not have valued the positive opinion the parents eventually reached regarding their daughter's new love.
A remake of the classic, the title shortened to Guess Who? hit theatres this week. This version puts a spin on the original: the unsuspecting family is Black and the surprise guest is their daughter's White boyfriend.
Ashton Kutcher stars as Simon, an easy-going businessman with the world on a string and very much in love with Theresa (Zoe Saldana), the overprotected daughter of an upper-class family. With marriage inevitable, she decides its time for him to meet her family and takes him home for the weekend of her parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Neglecting to tell anyone Simon's race, Theresa's family is shocked when they meet Simon, but no one more than her father, Percy (Bernice Mac). Prior to their visit, once Theresa mentioned her love interest, Percy checked into Simon's background and discovered many facts including his net worth (good) and his current employment status (not good). Despite all Percy learned about his potential future son-in-law, his race comes as a complete shock - and disappointment. Since Percy's discomfort with Simon is obvious, Simon works hard to impress him, often making matters worse.
Although this movie has funny moments, Guess Who? can't decide if it wants to be a dramedy focused on race relations or a comedy with a "Meet the Parents" theme. Occasionally ambiguity works in a film's favor, but not in this case. Because of its plot indecision, the movie doesn't flow well and many jokes fall flat. Focusing less on the relationship the lovebirds and more on the relationship between Percy and Simon, the movie invested a lot in their ability to carry the film. Professional comedians, Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher didn't disappoint - they did what they do best. They are unable to completely redeem the movie, but they do save it from being a disaster. Their completely different acting styles are interesting and fun to watch and could've been much more enjoyable without the burden of remake on their shoulders. Zoe Saldana is lovely, but her role in addition to that of Theresa's mother (Judith Scott) is barely noticable in contrast.
In its time, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner wasn't exactly a blockbuster - even today it's only regarded as a classic because of the lead actors and its provocative subject matter. One may wonder today if a remake of this film was neccessary or even wise. Guess Who? should perhaps have asked Guess Why? instead - although the filmmakers may not have even had an answer to that question.
Extra Extra! Tidbits About the Movie...
*In Reality - Ashton Kutcher has also acted as producer on many films that he has also starred in including "The Butterfly Effect" and "Guess Who."
*Best Line - "You didn't tell me your parents were Black!" Simon jokingly says to Theresa when meeting her parents for the first time.
*Tidbit - Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac both star in their own television comedy shows: Kutcher's "Punk'd" on MTV and Mac's "The Bernie Mac Show" on FOX.