out of Five
Running time: 105
Surprisingly, this isn’t actually as bad as it sounds, thanks to the comic chemistry between Mac and Kutcher and a handful of decent gags.
It must have been fun to listen in on the pitch for Guess Who: “It’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, only with Ashton Kutcher in the Sidney Poitier role! See? Comedy gold!” Not strictly a remake then - instead, the press notes cagily describe Guess Who as a “comedic variation” on the classic Tracy / Hepburn / Poitier film and this proves to be a weight that the film can’t really carry.
Film Surprisingly Enjoyable Despite Shortcomings
It would have been much better to have given it another title and let the audience work out the similarities for themselves - at least that way the film-makers might have spared themselves the inevitable comparisons. In fact, on its own terms, the film is surprisingly enjoyable, thanks to the unexpected comic chemistry of its two leads.
Bernie Mac plays Percy Jones, a banker and proud family man who lives comfortably in the belief that he is always right. When informed that his beloved daughter Theresa (Zoe Saldana, from Crossroads) is bringing home her boyfriend, Percy imagines him to be a cross between Denzel Washington, Tiger Woods and Colin Powell, so he’s understandably none to pleased when he turns out to be Ashton Kutcher instead.
Meanwhile, Kutcher (or ‘Simon’, as he insists on calling himself) attempts to hide the fact that he has just quit his high-flying job and his efforts to ingratiate himself with Theresa’s family just land him in more and more trouble.
One of the key moments in Guess Who involves Simon explaining to Percy just why he’s so attracted to Theresa - it’s a fairly standard “She’s my other half, she completes me” sort of speech, but it’s particularly apt because, in a strange way, Kutcher and Mac complete each other too. Neither of them are especially funny on their own (witness Kutcher in Just Married or Mac seeming uncomfortable and out of place in Ocean’s 11 and 12) but together they have surprising comic chemistry that yields some unexpected results.
Kutcher Succeeds In Suppressing Idiocy
Kutcher does a good job of reigning in his likeable idiot persona from That 70s Show and Dude, Where’s My Car? to the point where you almost - but not quite - buy him as a high-flying stockbroker type. By contrast, Mac sticks with his trademarked fast-talking sarcasm and it works perfectly for his character.
There’s also good support from Zoe Saldana and Judith Scott (from Jake 2.0) as Percy’s no-nonsense wife Marilyn, as well as newcomer Kellee Stewart, who gets several good lines as Theresa’s little sister, such as “I wanted to thank you, because from now on, no matter how much I mess up, at least I’ll never be the daughter who brought home the white boy!”
To be fair, there are some genuinely funny scenes here, such as Simon and Percy listening to the car stereo and finding all the songs to be a little too close to the bone (“Ebony and Ivory” etc); or Simon and Theresa horsing around in the bedroom and getting caught by Percy. That said, a few of the gags fall flat and, ironically, there’s not much actual chemistry between Kutcher and Saldana themselves.
In short, Guess Who could have been a lot worse than it is and ultimately it’s worth seeing for Kutcher and Mac’s performances.