Swept away

“We can finally have sex!”

“We can finally have sex!”

Rated 3.0

I still have a bad cinematic hangover from Madea’s Big Happy Family, the latest Tyler Perry movie, and when I saw the preview trailer for Jumping the Broom, I thought it was going to be another Perry monstrosity.

Perry’s frequent movies make a lot of bank, so it would come as no surprise that a studio would market its movie as if it were a Perry movie even if Perry didn’t direct it.

Before heading out to see Broom, I checked the Internet Movie Database to discover that Perry had nothing to do with it. This made me a little more optimistic, but that preview trailer still stuck in my head. The only thing worse than a Tyler Perry movie would be a sad Tyler Perry rip-off.

My worries were alleviated during the opening proposal sequence before the credits even rolled. Director Salim Akil makes an impressive feature film debut with this pleasant little throwback of a movie. Broom has the charm of an old-school Hollywood rom-com. Heck, its central character, played by the alluring Paula Patton, is named Sabrina.

You have to be a pretty solid director with a gift for nuance to pull off a scene where El DeBarge breaks out singing in the middle of Manhattan, as he does in the film’s opening minutes. Akil has the ability to make something potentially maudlin both cute and entertaining.

The story centers on Sabrina’s impending marriage to Jason (Laz Alonso), a man who she meets after hitting him with her car. Their two families come together at the very upscale home of Sabrina’s parents (played by the ever reliable Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell). Jason’s mom (Loretta Devine) is a postal worker with a bad attitude, angry that she isn’t meeting her daughter-in-law until the wedding weekend. The two different families come together, and friction is immediately apparent.

Devine had a part in Madea’s Big Happy Family, in which I called her “appallingly bad.” I stand by that statement. She was awful in that movie. But here, she’s able to show off her natural sass as a generally mean-spirited character. Her Mrs. Taylor is a big time jerk, but not so much that she isn’t capable of redemption. Devine pulls off the role just fine and acquits herself of the crap she flung on screen in her last movie.

Patton has an admirable level of poise on screen, whether she’s playing the light and admittedly vacuous role of Sabrina, or going deeper with something like her impressive turn in Precious. She acts like somebody who has been onscreen for decades, but her acting career is only 6 years old.

Bassett does a good job of trading barbs with Devine as the two mothers go at it. She overdoes a couple of the more melodramatic scenes, but that’s OK because the film is just an overblown, sappy soap opera that somehow works. The film’s title refers to an African-American wedding tradition that Mom Taylor is very much in favor of, while Mom Watson just wants her to shut up about it.

Mike Epps provides some first-class comic relief as Jason’s uncle Willie, basically at the wedding to crack wise and hit on Sabrina’s aunt (Valarie Pettiford). Epps easily scores most of the film’s bigger laughs. Julie Bowen (TV’s Modern Family) gets off a couple of funny moments as Amy, wedding planner and token white girl in a mostly African-American cast.

This is the kind of movie that you’ll surely forget on the way home, but it provides enough laughs and good vibrations during its running time to earn it a passing grade. Akil is no Tyler Perry … and that’s a good thing.