2011 jumping the broom_web.jpgFor his debut feature film, Salim Akil has done very well. The director of the delightful Jumping the Broom is also director of the hugely popular television show, The Game, and husband of the show’s creator (Mara Brock Akil). Riding good industry feedback from Jumping, Akil is reportedly in demand now. Rumor has it he’s been tapped to direct Sparkle, the remake of the 1976 movie.

He deserves it. In Jumping the Broom, Akil has managed to create a charming movie that draws non-buffoonery-inspired laughter, fine acting by most of its ensemble cast and a decent, albeit predictable story with a few surprises thrown in.

Main character Sabrina Watson’s (Paula Patton) eternal optimism that each one might be the right one has landed her in bed with loser after loser. Fed up with her bad luck with men, she prays and asks God to send her a “crystal clear” sign of the man she should marry. She literally runs into her potential husband, Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso), whom she vows not to bed until after they’re married.

After a brief courtship and Sabrina’s announcement of a promotion that will take her to China, Jason delivers a romantic proposal on bended knee, complete with El DeBarge singing. Patton and Alonso are not only easy on the eyes, they have great on-screen chemistry and are fine actors with bright futures in Hollywood.

Now the fireworks begin. The wedding is to take place on Martha’s Vineyard, where Sabrina’s well-heeled family owns a big, beautiful house on acres of waterfront property. Her mother, Claudine, (Angela Bassett) comes from old money; and her father, (Brian Stokes Mitchell) is an investor with a big secret.

Conversely, Jason’s family is a working class group from Brooklyn. His mother, Pam Taylor played authentically by Loretta Devine, is a bit protective of her son, who has managed to elevate beyond his circumstances by pulling himself up by his proverbial “bootstraps,” becoming a successful Wall Street stock broker.

The supporting cast includes the hilarious Mike Epps as the toned down, but still very funny Willie Earl, Jason’s uncle and the family’s surprising voice of reason. Epps is very comfortable in front of the camera and has the potential to play a dramatic role.

Tasha Smith and Romeo’s acting, on the other hand, leave a lot to be desired. Smith’s often boisterous on-screen persona bursts through even in more laid back roles like Jumping’s Shonda, Pam‘s best friend. And Romeo’s transition from rapping to acting should have included more acting lessons.

The underrated Valarie Pettiford plays Geneva, the aunt with whom Sabrina shares a deep bond and who is a part of the movie’s most explosive family secret.

In the movie’s opening, Akil’s selection of vintage wedding photos of black brides and grooms conveys a tasteful hint that the institution of marriage will celebrated in Jumping. And the collision of class differences is palatable, never really escalating into all-out confrontation until Pam crosses the line by really hurting Sabrina.

Audience members will see people from their families in at least one of the characters, from Malcolm (comedian DeRay Davis,) the cousin who loves Jason, but is jealous of his success and now questions his blackness because of his new tastes in friends and bachelor parties; to Geneva, the sexy aunt who sashays in and out of Sabrina’s life bearing gifts and girly secrets that ruffle Claudine’s feathers.

In addition to what might be startling information about the role that some black families played during slavery, the movie includes a brief explanation of the rich jumping the broom tradition that some blacks include in their weddings.

Jumping’s production team includes Texas-based prosperity preacher Bishop T.D. Jakes and Tracy Edmonds, head of Our Stories Films.

The premise behind the 2006 creation of Our Stories was that the studio would crank out quality films by and about blacks. They missed the mark with their first production, the dismal, stereotypical Who’s Your Caddy?
Jumping the Broom is more in line with the studio’s mission, and hopefully an indication of the production company‘s future offerings. Overall, it’s a good, refreshing time at the movies for the whole family.

Renee Michelle Harris may be reached at RMHarris15@Bellsouth.net