March 12, 2010 in Features

‘Our Family Wedding’ leans on slapstick, stereotyping

Betsy Sharkey Los Angeles Times
 
Fox Searchlight Films photo

America Ferrera and Lance Gross walk down the aisle in “Our Family Wedding.” Fox Searchlight Films
(Full-size photo)

Instead of invitations, they should be sending out apologies for “Our Family Wedding,” a cake-and-kisses comedy that has disaster written all over it and not for the right reasons.

Race as much as romance is at the heart of the matter with director Rick Famuyiw’a playing that card in nearly every scene – and a card shark he is not.

The film stars America Ferrera (who’s finishing her final lap on ABC’s “Ugly Betty”) and Lance Gross (a resident of Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne”) as the secretly betrothed Lucia and Marcus.

In case no one notices that she is Latina and he is African-American, Lucia’s grandmother (Lupe Ontiveros) is there to screech, “He’s black!” then faint dead away.

But the real couple wreaking havoc on the way to the altar is the dads, Brad Boyd and Miguel Ramirez, played by Forest Whitaker and stand-up comic Carlos Mencia.

They even get the movie’s meet-cute moment – Brad’s vintage Aston Martin is parked in a loading zone and Miguel is manning the tow truck that’s about to haul it away. But instead of hilarity ensuing, Miguel and Brad pull out nearly every racial slight in the book, a lot of half-baked slapstick and even more macho posturing in an effort to entertain.

Slapstick and slurs don’t complement each other well, and machismo humor seems way past its prime, but the filmmakers stay with that strategy until the bitter end, throwing in everything but the pinata.

With all its flaws, “Our Family Wedding” is not going to be the film that proves Ferrera can make the transition to big-screen star. It will take more than a better-dressed, braces-free version of the quirky-cute “Betty,” which is all that is asked of her here.

Long before the priest gets to the “Do you take” question, someone should have stepped in and said, “I don’t.”

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