The premise of “Our Family Wedding” makes it sound awful: Two young people are engaged to be married, but their fathers hate each other. There will be wackiness and sabotage and childish behavior! Ha ha! But you gotta hand it to them. They took this trite story and found a way to make it worse. How? Racial stereotypes! And Carlos Mencia! (Pardon the redundancy.)
In this good-natured but dimwitted comedy, directed and co-written by Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar,” “The Wood”), Lucia (America Ferrara), of Mexican descent, is engaged to Marcus (Lance Gross), who is black. She has not told her father that she even has a boyfriend, much less a fiancé; the implication is that her reluctance stems from Marcus’s failure to be Hispanic. Her dad, Miguel (Carlos Mencia), an auto-body repairman, is evidently a racist, though the movie avoids coming right out and saying it because it wants us to like him. Instead, we get things like this:
BLACK MAN: You know what they say, once you go black…
MIGUEL: (under his breath) … your credit goes bad.
I believe the accepted rule is that since Miguel is also a racial minority, it is OK for him to say racist things about other people. And his mother (Lupe Ontiveros), who is presented as nothing more than an exaggerated cartoon of a Mexican grandma, is more overtly racist: Upon being introduced to Marcus, she literally screams at the sight of him and falls to the ground. Ha ha, because the old Mexican lady is afraid of black people, get it?
Oh, but I’ve made this movie sound more daring and edgy than it is. Believe me, it’s as middle-of-the-road as it gets, the big-screen equivalent of a Larry The Cable Guy anecdote. Marcus’s father, Brad (Forest Whitaker), is a smooth-talking radio DJ and ladies’ man. He has no problem with Marcus’s fiancee being Latina, but he does have a beef with Miguel specifically: They met earlier, by coincidence, when Miguel towed Brad’s illegally parked car. Then there was racial tension when Miguel innocently called Brad “bro,” which made Brad call Miguel “homie,” and back and forth like that, because both men are juvenile idiots.
Once the fathers come to terms, more or less, with the idea of their children getting married, the movie can shift its focus to the matter at hand, i.e., both families getting too involved in the wedding plans and ruining it for the bride and groom. Lucia and her surly sister, Isabella (Anjelah Johnson) — the film’s only truly funny character — talk about Lucia’s desire not to become bored and domesticated like their mother, Sonia (Diana-Maria Riva), who has indeed lost the spark in her marriage, possibly because she is married to Carlos Mencia. And there are shenanigans with Brad’s palatial, ultra-modern house, which will be the wedding venue but has a lot of expensive things in it, including a high-tech bathroom sink for Miguel to somehow screw up and cause flooding, because ha ha.
What we have here, really, are two movies. One is a madcap farce in which someone brings a goat to the wedding — it is implied that all Mexican weddings have at least one goat — and the goat gets into the high-tech bathroom and eats some Viagra and then wants to hump everything. (Yes, Viagra jokes, a mere 12 years after they stopped being funny.) When Lucia serenades Marcus outside his house, her singing is so bad it makes coyotes howl. When Miguel and Brad get into an argument at a crowded restaurant, the soft background music suddenly hits an ugly chord, I guess because the pianist thought he was supposed to provide appropriate underscoring for this one table. Brad and his assistant, Angela (Regina King), who will need to become his love interest before the movie is over, get into a food fight at a bakery. These events are wacky but uninspired. They aren’t funny. There’s no cleverness, no pizzazz, just routine farce.
But the movie is also a melodrama, meant to be taken seriously as existing in the real world, about young love and unfulfilled dreams and family relationships. “The wedding is off!” Lucia cries at one pivotal moment, to which her panicked mother replies, “Our wedding is off??” Lucia corrects her: “Not OUR wedding, MY wedding!” Never mind that Mom wouldn’t have said “Our wedding is off??” as a reply to that anyway. Let’s consider how cliched and boring the whole idea is. Two people want to get married, their fathers have stupid reasons for not wanting them to, they do it anyway, the end. If you’re going to make a movie with a storyline that simple, you’d better make it funny, warm, human, and relatable. These are all supposed to be believable characters, but none of them are.
That’s especially true of Brad and Miguel, grown men with good careers who act like spiteful 13-year-olds. The movie goes for a “Meet the Parents” vibe (with a bit of “Guess Who” thrown in), but it misses the crucial part of that equation: Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro’s characters, while exaggerated for comic effect, nonetheless had their roots in recognizable types. Miguel and Brad are one-note buffoons, their personality traits varying from one scene to the next depending on the jokes. Forest Whitaker, a terrific dramatic actor, doesn’t belong in something like this — maybe not a comedy at all, and definitely not this one. On the other hand, this is about right for Carlos Mencia, who isn’t funny and therefore meshes very well with a movie that also isn’t funny.
D+ (1 hr., 41 min.; )