Thirty-eight years ago an anxious Katharine Houghton brought home one Sidney Poitier to meet her parents in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and this year it's a black woman, an anxious Zoe Saldana (Theresa), bringing home a clumsy Ashton Kutcher (Simon) to meet the folks in "Guess Who."
The "folks" are played by Bernie Mac and Judith Scott. While Scott's character, Marilyn, is comfortable with the fact that her daughter has brought home a white person because she raised a child "that doesn't see color," Mr. Mac, who plays Percy, isn't too thrilled that her daughter didn't bring home a basketball player named Jamal.
"Guess Who" is the kind of film you expect to see when you walk in: Attractive black girl brings home a goofy white boy and gets off on the wrong foot with the father. However because he is an intelligent person and has a reputable job it will only make sense that the parents realize he's a good boyfriend and deserves their daughter's hand in marriage…of course only after the obligatory mini-breakup that takes place in every romantic comedy where the characters aren't sure if the relationship will last but the people in the audience just patiently wait for them to get back together for the grand finale.
Simon is a Wall Street trader, an impressive career considering Theresa is just an artist who probably couldn't afford the home that her parents own. In the cab ride to their house, Simon asks his girlfriend if she told her parents that "you know…I'm white." "I didn't tell them because it doesn't matter," she responds, but the black cab driver (Mike Epps) assures her, "It's gonna matter."
To break the ice -- after Percy foolishly assumes that the cab driver is his daughter's boyfriend and orders the white boy to take the bags inside the house -- Simon reacts, "You didn't tell me your parents were black!" They don't laugh.
And that's just the beginning of several uncomfortable moments between Simon and Percy as they have trouble getting along and earning the other one's trust. At times I felt as if I were the one trying to impress my black girlfriend's parents, so perhaps the squirming in my seat was a good thing; a believable thing, but I rather laugh than feel embarrassed for the characters.
But funny "Guess Who" is, and I really like Keisha (Kellee Stewart), Theresa's sister whom at first assumes the white person standing in her parent's home is a tax auditor. Later she confesses to her sister that he's cute, but most importantly is happy that she will never face the burden of being the first one in the family to bring home a white person and seeing the expression on mom's and dad's face.
Kutcher reprises his clumsy persona from "That 70's Show" but this time around the script is generous enough to give him intelligence and a good job for Percy to eventually admire after getting past the racial nonsense. Mac has always been a good presence when given a good film opportunity and is convincing as an intimidating man who often walks in on Simon and Theresa at exactly the wrong time, such as when he's trying on her lingerie and pretends to be sexy rolling around on her bed.
"Guess Who" isn't a great movie, but it's charming, likeable and perfect for young couples, though I expect those looking for a more sophisticated take on the subject to re-rent "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."