Jumping the Broom Directed by: Salim Akil Cast: Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Julie Bowen, Mike Epps Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 6, 2011
PLOT: Two very different families, one uptown, one downtown, join together for a wedding weekend in Martha's Vineyard.
WHO'S IT FOR? Presumably, religious African-Americans will appreciate this movie more than others.
I had no idea about the tradition of jumping the broom. Apparently, slaves were not able to marry so the only way they could express their life-long devotion to one another was to jump a broom. After seeing Jumping the Broom that is still all I know about this fascinating tradition. How did it start? Why a broom? Were brooms passed on through generations? Did slave owners ever discover the meaning? You'd think a movie named after the tradition would explain. During one family fight (oh don't worry, there is plenty more than one) Mrs. Taylor (Devine) explains the only thing we know about the broom and jumping it.
Please keep in mind, at this point we know Mrs. Taylor and her family/friends are downtown. Her son Jason (Alonso), was downtown, but now he's becoming more and more uptown (sushi, opera) thanks to the help of Sabrina (Patton). Now, after Mrs. Taylor expresses how important it is and it's obvious she's all ready feeling out of place, her son and his future wife (who wants to make a good impression) says they won't be jumping the broom. They have no other reason besides wanting to start their own traditions. Look, I totally understand if kids don't have the same beliefs as their parents about religion, politics or anything of the such, but to not jump the broom means you are so obsessed with your own life that you can't see anyone else's.
Insert Sabrina. She's our main character I guess. She prays to God to meet a good man, then she hits a guy with her car. Luckily, he's a good man. I can't remember a moment where Sabrina does something for Jason. He doesn't mind. She's celibate. He doesn't mind. They do the opera because she wants to. She gets a job offer with 20 percent more pay, and both of them are going to China to live. He doesn't mind. The performance of Patton only adds to my disdain for this character. She's breathless. I'm not talking about beauty. I'm talking about the fact that she's literally always out of breath. Just listen and you'll hear her breath. Sabrina is a hugger and played with such blinding joy that she doesn't seem real. Or maybe she just seems like a teenager going to her first Homecoming dance.
Not much of this film does seem real, including Bowen's character Amy. Amy has apparently never been around black people and mutters curiosities about skin tone, sunscreen, chicken and other things that are meant to be comic relief. Most of the comedy just feels off. While talking to the minister, Jason says his favorite passage is Jude 3. But he says it like he's serious. So, are we to infer he's just an idiot? It's awkward at best.
The reality of the film becomes overwhelming when an absolute bombshell is dropped, then another one on top of that. I won't spoil the revelations here, but I can say I needed a moment. The movie, on the other hand, seems to just roll along. The characters read the bible or pray to god when times get tough and move on. It's like a full soap opera season of melodrama crammed into less than two hours.
Because all of this melodrama is lumped on top of itself, it's addictive, but not good. Mike Epps is tossing out nonsensical one-liners. A 20-year-old is hitting on a cougar. A black man might be having an affair with a white woman ... and again, I'm not even talking about the big plot swings. At one point Jason turns to his mom and says she treats him like a little boy and her husband. That demands more conversation, doesn't it?
It's insanely hard to emotionally keep up or connect with this film. Initially, Jason has a calming nature about him and you're willing to try and see why he loves Sabrina and tolerates his mother. Eventually, you're just tired and wished they had eloped, even if that means you don't get to see the cupid shuffle.
Jumping the Broom lacks focus, timing and coherence, but it has just enough entertainment to make it a renter.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10