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Jumping the Broom Blu-ray Review

Jumping the Broom (2011) movie poster Jumping the Broom

Theatrical Release: May 6, 2011 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Director: Salim Akil / Writers: Elizabeth Hunter (story & screenplay), Arlene Gibbs (screenplay)

Cast: Angela Bassett (Mrs. Claudine Watson), Paula Patton (Sabrina Watson), Laz Alonso (Jason Taylor), Loretta Devine (Mrs. Pam Taylor), Meagan Good (Blythe), Tasha Smith (Shonda Peterkin), Julie Bowen (Amy), DeRay Davis (Malcolm Taylor), Valarie Pettiford (Aunt Geneva), Mike Epps (Uncle Willie Earl Watson), Pooch Hall (Ricky), Romeo Miller (Sebastian), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Mr. Gregory Watson), Gary Dourdan (Chef McKenna), T.D. Jakes (Reverend James), El DeBarge (Singer), Tenika Davis (Lauren), Vera Cudjoe (Mabel), Will Lemay (Bobby)

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In a typical year, Hollywood grants wide theatrical release to maybe five films whose casts are predominantly African American. That leaves very little opportunity for black actors to share the big screen in movies the general public will see. Fortunately, family is a recurring theme in black cinema and that lends to large ensemble pieces.
Such are the movies favored by Tyler Perry, the impresario who often claims two of the five yearly slots with the reliably profitable life-affirming dramedies he usually writes, directs, produces, and stars in. Untouched by Perry, Jumping the Broom adds to that ensemble tradition, with its tale of two families from different classes coming together at a wedding more chaotic than cheerful.

Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) makes a deal with God that she'll refrain from casual sex if He could help her recognize someone worth spending her life with. Both deliver on their promises, with handsome, charming, successful bachelor Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso) soon entering her world. Five unseen months into their chaste relationship, Sabrina accepts a job in Peking, to which she'll report in two months. She won't have to go there alone, though, because Jason asks her to marry her and Sabrina accepts this too.

After Sabrina (Paula Patton) accepts a job in Peking, Jason (Laz Alonso) asks her to marry him. Mother-in-law? More like monster-in-law! Pam (Loretta Devine) has a negative word on every aspect of the weekend.

The brief courtship largely explains why neither the bride nor groom-to-be has met the other's family. That ensures tumult as the two contrary sides come together for a lavish August weekend in Martha's Vineyard. Hailing from Brooklyn, Jason's folks are working class people. Sabrina, on the other hand, comes from money, a fact that is apparent at her family's palatial residence and the abundant touches of class and luxury they've given the ceremony's quick but careful planning.

Discord begins from the moment Jason's outspoken mother Pam (a good Loretta Devine) arrives, upset she and her kin have been picked up by a chauffeur and not family. Though Pam is able to hold her growing hostilities in check, tensions escalate at the groom's dinner, when the would-be mother-in-law seizes the opportunity to turn grace into a caustic passing of judgment on her affluent hosts. Sabrina's mother (Angela Bassett) takes offense and the evening sours everyone's mood, even planting some doubt inside the engaged.

The weekend proves to be marked by secrets and romances, with no overlap between them. The infidelity that Mrs. Watson suspects her husband (Brian Stokes Mitchell) of is revealed to be something troubling in a different way. Meanwhile, Pam overhears about the juiciest piece of gossip imaginable and shockingly uses it to bombshell effect. Supplying lighter notes are the attempted and realized hookups. College student Sebastian (Romeo Miller, née Lil' Romeo) hits on Pam's friend Shonda (Tasha Smith) to age gap resistance. A cousin (Meagan Good) gets sensual with a chef (Gary Dourdan). And Jason's Uncle Willie Earl (game Mike Epps) tries to impress Sabrina's impulsive Aunt Geneva (Valarie Pettiford).

Stress unrelated to the wedding weighs down on Claudine (Angela Bassett), mother of the bride. Jason's Uncle Willie Earl (Mike Epps) pursues Sabrina's Aunt Geneva (Valarie Pettiford) in one of the film's three romantic subplots.

Compared to Perry's films, the comedy here is less broad and the romance less soapy.
For much of its runtime, the movie remains breezily appealing, hopping around from one interaction to another. None of it is especially sharp or funny and the foundational clash is far from original, but Jumping doesn't make one cringe. Its depictions of both sides of the great economic divide are reasonable and everyone here hangs onto some sympathy, even when displaying an astonishing lack of good judgment. It's always clear how the movie has to end, so the struggle to get there with arguments, revelations, and tears feels a bit tedious. Still, as the movie piles on contrived conflict, it doesn't lose a grip on reality, tempering gags and emotions to run a gamut much narrower than Madea's movies.

Nevertheless, the movie didn't add up to all that much for me. I could relate to some of it, impressive considering the distance of the subject matter, but I never could shake the feeling that the clear, calculated path we're kept on could use more diversions and believable personality.

Jumping the Broom, whose title comes from a wedding tradition Pam alone wishes to see honored here, marks the feature film debut of director Salim Akil (a veteran of TV's "Soul Food", "Girlfriends", and "The Game") and Arlene Gibbs, who shares screenplay credit with story-credited Elizabeth Hunter (an alum of "ER", "The L Word", and "Charmed"). Filling the perhaps token white role here is "Modern Family" matriarch Julie Bowen, who ably plays the wedding planner who tries too hard not to come across as racist.

Jumping was a box office hit, its $37.3 million gross turning a healthy profit on a modest $6.6 M budget. In an interesting bit of scheduling, the film opened across from another wedding-themed comedy, the very white Something Borrowed. Though Jumping opened a little bigger, Borrowed finished a little stronger, edging out a narrow domestic victory (and a runaway win overseas). The difference, however, was that Borrowed's budget was $35 M and it played in nearly 1,000 more theaters. So while Jumping might have made a little less in the US, its performance was a lot more potent.

Jumping the Broom is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. We look at the latter here.

Jumping the Broom Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Appearing in 1.78:1, Jumping the Broom expectedly doesn't have the most cinematic look. There are a lot of competently shot outdoor scenes (Nova Scotia stands in for Cape Cod) that are picturesque without quite dazzling like many other Blu-rays do. I don't see anything specifically wrong with the clean, clear, sharp transfer; it just doesn't wow enough to push someone on the bubble to choose Blu-ray over DVD. Still, I don't doubt that this surpasses the standard def presentation in the usual ways.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is similarly adequate. Some dialogue sounds a little tinny or hollow, but most of it holds up well. Supplying the occasional swell, music is presented nicely and robustly without overpowering the other elements. Atmosphere is minimal, but not unusually so.

Director Salim Akil takes us behind the scenes vocally in two featurettes and an audio commentary. Sabrina (Paula Patton) admires her wedding dress in the mirror on the Blu-ray's stately menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Just a handful of bonus features make the Blu-ray and all that I could access can also be found on the DVD.

First and most significantly is an audio commentary by director Salim Akil and stars Paula Patton and Laz Alonso. Some of the more interesting topics addressed here are the importance of portraying the race in a positive light and the faith content. The actors live up to their profession's reputation
by discussing their appearances and dabbling in jokey banter, but they also recall the reservations they held regarding certain scenes and lines. There is much pride and praise (most of all for Patton's post-pregnancy underwear scene) and also one mention of a deleted scene not preserved here. Though more spirited than most, the commentary still has less to offer than you'd want from a 112-minute time commitment.

On the video front, the first and longer of two HD featurettes is "You're Invited...: Behind the Scenes" (23:40). This thorough, thoughtful making-of featurette takes us through the production from conception to filming, touching upon the characters, their portrayers, the film's themes, shooting in Nova Scotia, and costume/production design. Many crew and some cast interview comments complement clips and a modest amount of B-roll footage.

"Honoring the Tradition of Jumping the Broom" (6:25) discusses the titular act's historical significance to African Americans, with most cast and crew confessing they've never seen it done at a real wedding.

This also boasts BD-Live enhancement, which should allow you to stream Jumping the Broom's otherwise absent theatrical trailer and previews for other Sony titles coming soon or now available on home video. None of those worked for me, I thought, because the Rio extra I downloaded yesterday pushed me below memory limits, but even after I cleared my saved data, they still wouldn't work. What might have been the disc's most notable Live extra, a movieIQ+sync fact track, was said to be "no longer available." On my DVD-ROM, the streaming videos would load but not play. Oh, BD-Live.

The disc opens with a promo for Blu-ray and trailers for Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, Friends with Benefits, Zookeeper, Colombiana, and The Grace Card. The "Previews" listing plays the same lot.

The menu plays clips in a wedding invitation/place card design, annoyingly moving the listings instead of your cursor.

Part of the time, the disc supports bookmarks and does a good job of resuming playback of the movie, an extra, or even just the menu. As usual, Sony utilizes the translucent nature of standard Blu-ray cases to display a nice large photograph on the reverse of the cover art.

Family drama threatens to separate Jason (Laz Alonso) and Sabrina (Paula Patton) before they can even be joined in holy matrimony.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Jumping the Broom is an okay movie and better than its lowly user rating from the racially skewed IMDb votership implies. It's also better than many of the ensemble black movies of recent years. But it's still a wedding comedy that has a familiar premise and an inevitable destination, so there's only so much you can gain from this. If you're all right with that, you won't regret renting this. If you anticipate wanting to see it more than once, the feature presentation and handful of bonus features are par for the course.

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Related Reviews:
New: Four Weddings and a Funeral (Blu-ray) • Rio • Soul Surfer
Weddings: You Again • The Royal Wedding: William & Catherine • License to Wed • Father of the Bride
Paula Patton: Deja Vu • Swing Vote | Laz Alonso: Miracle at St. Anna • Avatar
Loretta Devine: Death at a Funeral • For Colored Girls • Eli Stone: The Complete First Season | Angela Bassett: Mr. 3000
Tasha Smith: Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? | Julie Bowen: Modern Family: The Complete First Season
Mike Epps: The Hangover | Gary Dourdan: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The First Season

Jumping the Broom Songs List (in order of use): The Hi-Fly Orchestra - "Mambo Atomico", Shelea - "Love Fell on Me", El DeBarge - "How Can You Love Me", Bruno Mars - "Marry You", Al Green - "Simply Beautiful", Robin Thicke - "Magic", Mika Lett - "I'm Good", Melodye Perry - "Money", JoiStaRR - "Mr. Forever", Valarie Pettiford - "Sexual Healing", Juan Winans - "Compares to You", Damani - "Hit Em", Mika Lett - "Sweet Tea", Donnis - "Tonight", Louis Armstrong - "La Vie En Rose", Aretha Franklin - "Bridge Over Troubled Water", DJ Khaled featuring T-Pain - "All I Do is Win", Gonzales - "Overnight", Cupid - "Cupid Shuffle", Curtis Mayfield - "The Makings of You"

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Reviewed August 11, 2011.



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