A vintage montage of James Van Der Zee’s black-and-white photographs of African-American weddings in the opening credits promises a more culturally nuanced film than the one that follows. “Jumping the Broom” proves to be a thud of a wedding comedy. Publicized with an “uptown vs. downtown” hook, this “faith-based film” only asks: Tyler Perry, where art thou? Five months after corporate lawyer Sabrina (Paula Patton) meets Jason (Laz Alonso), a Goldman Sachs exec relocating to China, they plan to marry at her rich parents’ estate on Martha’s Vineyard, as played by Nova Scotia. She has never met his widowed mom Pam (Loretta Devine), a Brooklyn postal worker who smothers her only offspring. Sabrina, a self-admitted “hugger,” speaks French, as do her parents. Her old-money mother sniffs that her people once owned slaves. The script by Elizabeth Hunter and Arlene Gibbs struggles for class cracks: what Sabrina calls “optics,” Pam calls “pictures.” Sabrina, who got “a half-million dollar education,” disses a photographer by snapping he probably cannot spell “mediocre.” Another stud on the make thinks “hermaphrodite” describes a woman’s “religion.” Loose plot items include four mentions of Pam’s “anger management” therapy but she never goes ballistic, like when her cherished sweet-potato pie goes missing. Secrets surface. Things go wrong. Nobody dies. Salim Akil (CW’s “The Game” and “Girlfriends”) directs with no discernible eye for framing or pacing. In an old-fashioned touch, the words “The End” appear on the screen over an apres-vows crane shot. It’s a useful clarification, since this listless vessel boasts the worst-crafted closing minute I have seen in years. With Angela Bassett, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Tracey Edmonds, Mike Epps, Glendon Palmer, T.D. Jakes. 108m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.