For a lot of Latinas who live constantly straddling two cultures, watching America Ferrera in Our Family Wedding, opening in theaters today, March 12, will be kind of like looking in a mirror. She plays Lucia, a modern, independent, ambitious girl—who turns into a wuss when she’s with her traditional Latin family: They don’t know she’s dropping out of law school to pursue a dream, let alone that their angelita lives with her boyfriend and has hot sex on the couch. She is thoroughly relatable.
Lucia is half of an interracial couple (House of Payne’s Lance Gross plays groom, Marcus) who bring together their families to announce they’re getting hitched. He’s black, she’s Mexican, which is enough to start a culture clash, especially as Lucia’s parents and Marcus’ dad jockey for control of every last bit of the wedding. Complicating things further, the dads (Carlos Mencia as Miguel and Forest Whitaker as Brad) have a run-in even before they knew they were going to be family: Miguel tows away Brad’s vintage car and the two trade racially-charged (but devilishly effective) insults, in a solid early scene. The scene launches a testosterone-athon that takes up a big chunk of the movie, with uneven results. A toned-down Mencia is surprisingly likable as Lucia’s misguided dad but he and Forest Whitaker (lacking in the comic timing department) have little chemistry. Supporting actors fare better: Anjelah Johnson (aka MADTv’s Bon Qui Qui) delivers some choice acidic lines as sarcastic younger sis Izzy; and in one quirky scene, Chappelle Show alum Charlie Murphy and Taye Diggs (making cameos) make a pretty compelling case for staying single.
There are some sharp moments in the film (one fantasy sequence imagines what it would be like to pair the more extreme breed of relatives from each side with each other with hilarious and vicious results); but much of it falls flat or is flat-out gratuitous: Did we really need to see Lucia’s prejudiced grandmother, played by a misused Lupe Ontiveros, literally convulse on the floor after meeting Marcus? In the end, for all its noise, the film has next to nothing to say about race relations.