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Jumping the Broom

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Jumping the Broom

Directed by Salim Akil

“Jumping the Broom” refers to a romantic African-American tradition dating back to slavery, when marriage was forbidden, and is understandably still a sore spot for some. This is just one of the skirmishes in the immortal struggle between uptown and downtown that gets another public airing in this faintly musty but well-intentioned family farce. Weddings being a reliable conflict generator, the movie spins off into various side fights about everything from wealth, identity, and gender roles to sweet potato pie recipes. Set in a haughty Martha’s Vineyard surrounding and in an urban movie fantasia where the only white people in sight are the hired help (Julie Bowen), Jumping the Broom briefly dabbles with some serious intercultural debates before passing the cornbread and shuffling everybody back to the dance floor.

The utterly flavorless lead couple is surrounded by the usual oddball cousins and rowdy in-laws, who squabble, rumble, and sometimes flirt in a familiar cacophony of movie stereotypes. The groom’s mother (Loretta Devine) is a brash, overbearing, streetwise postal worker, livid that she was boxed out of the planning, and her opposite number (Angela Basset) is prissy, cold, and controlling and even has the gall to pepper a bit of French into her girl talk. Sparks fly.

The only real comedic punch is delivered by the dependable Mike Epps, a ubiquitous but welcome presence in seemingly all modern urban comedy. His lecherous-but-clever uncle character gets the best lines, which is to say, the memorable precious few in the script. Blowsy megachurch pastor T. D Jakes served as a producer, and also lords over the onscreen proceedings, likely influencing all the talk of abstinence and brief outbursts of prayer.

The debates over class and heritage in the black community are probably better left to the likes of Cornel West than a sitcom veteran like director Salim Akil. All of this is fun without being very funny, like a large cast all spinning plates at the same time. No mistake, this is a notch above the dredges of Tyler Perry, but that is admittedly a pretty low bar over which to jump.

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