Tuesday, August 10, 2010
"Kingdom Come" is Tyler Perry-Like
Kingdom Come (2001)
Running time: 91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
MPAA – PG for thematic elements, language and sensuality
DIRECTOR: Doug McHenry
WRITERS: David Dean Bottrell and Jessie Jones (based upon their play Dearly Departed)
PRODUCERS: Edward Bates and John Morrissey
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Francis Kenny
EDITOR: Richard Halsey
(NAACP) Image Awards nominee
Starring: LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox, Loretta Devine, Anthony Anderson, Toni Braxton, Cedric the Entertainer, Darius McCrary, and Whoopi Goldberg
When the despicable head of a black family dies, family and close friends band together for a few tumultuous days to bury the old turd.
His long-suffering wife, Raynelle Slocum (Whoppi Goldberg), must bear the presence of her fractious clan. Her oldest and most reliable son, Ray Bud (LL Cool J) deals with burying a father he wasn’t particularly fond of, while he and his wife Lucille (Vivica A. Fox) struggle over their difficulty to conceive a child. Ray Bud’s brother Junior (Anthony Anderson) arrives broke and unemployed with his shrewish wife Charisse (Jada Pinkett Smith) and their brood of noisy boys. And there are many more mini-dramas in this huge cast of characters.
Kingdom Come is wholly and unabashedly a black movie. The cast is all black, and the writers created a cast of characters who are black rural and black Southern archetypes and stereotypes. If movies can revolve around story, setting, and/or characters, this one complete hangs upon its large cast. The plot is sparse: bury the old bastard as fast as we can so we don’t have to stay around each other too long.
Based upon a stage play, the movie, adapted by the playwrights, is very talky. Many of the actors spend much of their screen time screaming at their screen partners or just plain talking and explaining. The movie obviously has a message about families sticking together that it repeatedly pounds into our heads. Like many stage plays aimed at African-Americans, this one aims to both entertain and to teach. Its message is both obvious and familiar and geared towards black folks. African-Americans can nod their heads in agreement at the play’s message and vicariously gobble down huge servings of soul food with the cast.
Director Doug McHenry, a prolific producer and director (House Party 2 and Jason’s Lyric) chooses bluntness over subtlety, but he wisely follows each cast member’s every move, as this film could not hang upon its story. To understand Kingdom Come, one must come to understand the characters’ motivations. The film is average goods that does have some very funny and touching moments.
Kingdom Come’s importance is that it exists at all, and it is much needed in a Hollywood landscape that mostly ignores the audience that wants films like Kingdom Come. The cast also includes R&B vocalist Toni Braxton, Loretta Devine (Waiting to Exhale and What Women Want), and Cedric the Entertainer. The quality of the acting ranges from surprising to really good, and the actors overcome the average script and directing in making their characters fun to watch.
In the end, anyone with an extended family, regardless of ethnic background, will recognize the family template upon which this family is based. It’s a universal story with universal themes set in one particular group. Its family dynamics are as similar as “Everybody Loves Raymond,” or Parenthood. While it is not great, or even very good, for that matter, it is a good choice on home video and for family viewing.
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