Claudia Leisinger


(12A) 105 min

It’s not just skin tone that separates Ashton Kutcher from Sidney Poitier, but precisely such boneheaded correlations scupper yet another Hollywood “reimagining” of a decidedly ropey golden oldie. Late 60s Civil Rights momentum and the combined screen charms of Poitier, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn - noble black man and well-to-do prospective white in-laws respectively - couldn’t salvage the treacly, sermonising interracial drama Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Did anyone really think a Benetton-age, racially reversed, comedy update starring Demi Moore’s toyboy mannequin signified progress?

The film that Guess Who really wants to echo is Meet the Parents. If anything, though, it shows that even lightweight, amiable fluff needs some sort of effort applied. There, DeNiro’s tyrannical, protective father had a CIA background to justify his paranoia; here, Bernie Mac is basically an arrogant, vaguely racist halfwit. As with DeNiro and Ben Stiller (another comparison with Kutcher so painful you’d think his agent wanted to shame him into retirement), the relationship between suitor and daughter matters little compared to the mano-a-mano tussle. The filmmakers should simply have made the cop “buddy” movie they were itching to make.

It would matter less if any of the interminable, smarmy set piece gags delved more than skin-deep. The exception is a genuinely edgy family mealtime scene where Mac goads Kutcher into recounting racist jokes, the lone occasion where you actually have to - or want to - guess what’s coming to the dinner table. Everything else served up is smarmy, sickly and stale.

  * (one star)

'© The List 2005. No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.'