Director Salim Akil makes his feature film directing debut with ‘Jumping the Broom’ starring Angela Bassett (Malcolm X), Paula Patton (Deja Vu, Precious) and Loretta Devine (Crash). Billed as “two very different families converge on Martha’s vineyard one weekend for a wedding,” the film feels extremely superficial and adds ”ghetto” dialogue for cheap, but effective laughs. The irony of who is delivering the lines and one-liners themselves give the film its comedic power, unfortunately most of the rest is where ‘Jumping the Broom’ trips mid-air and stumbles upon landing.
‘Jumping the Broom’ has an unorthodox and confusingly long opening before revealing the film’s title credits, much like a television drama where you get a scene, then the show’s opening credits (but it could be arguably expected from a television director). The only difference is, the acting in the opening scene was so pretentious and overwrought it alone is enough to make someone leave a theater if it were to symbolize what is to come and in a way, it does. What’s worse is that the opening scene isn’t even overly funny, in fact, it’s like the screenwriters were attempting to make the viewer laugh while trying for an “aw, how sweet” moment and then they tossed in the overly bubbly, “optimistic” Paula Patton to deliver the line. Then the movie starts.
It’s a typical story of “downtown meets uptown,” full of the expected cultural barriers. But it’s also full of holes (like, what’s the consequence to the wrong people eating Mama’s pie?) and a glaring continuity and editing mishap (involving a wine glass). ‘Jumping the Broom’ is not a landmark film, it’s not even really memorable, the fact that its earning a review is enough. It mixes a lot of clichés (the chef needs to cook lots of chicken) and superficial dialogue with some terrible acting by some of the cast members, but it earns the laughs it aims to earn. And despite incorporating the idea of broom jumping – a tradition dating back to the 1600s to pay homage to African and slave heritage – the film lacks the SOUL you’ll find in such films like The Color Purple, The Princess and The Frog, and even Diary of a Mad Black Woman though not to say it doesn’t try. But that’s just it, the film feels like one giant try that doesn’t quite get there, like it could have just been pushed a little bit more had several of the subplots been eliminated – but had that been the case, some of the comedy would have gone by the wayside as well.
‘Jumping the Broom’ has the comedy and drama found in most typical romantic comedies and possesses the same structure of blossoming romance that gets interrupted by some force then gets rekindled to be better than what it originally was. It’s a movie worth seeing if you’re in the mood to laugh, but laughter can be discovered outside of the theater. ‘Jumping the Broom’ runs almost 2 hours and is rated PG-13.