After setting the stage with half a dozen insultingly shopworn plot contrivancesin its first five minutes, "Guess Who" -- a seemingly ill-advisedcross between "Meet the Parents" and "Guess Who's Comingto Dinner" -- eventually finds its comedy footing by playfully dancingalong the edge of political incorrectness.
The meagerly amusing Ashton Kutcher plays a generic, kowtowing,romantic-comedy male dope named Simon, the kind of guy who quits his high-payingjob on principle (cliche) but lies about it to his fiance (contrivance)so she can find out about it on her own and thus break up with him (cliche),forcing him to win her back in the third act (oh, brother). This despitethe fact that it's never clear what she sees in him in the first place.
Simon also lies about his job to the girl's vociferousand intimidating father (cliche), whom he's meeting for the first timethat very weekend (contrivance). The young couple plans to announce theirengagement during a 25th anniversary party for her parents (there's a badidea), which will include a renewal of wedding vows (a plot crutch onlyused by screenwriters desperate to find a climactic setting for a big finale).
Having built its story arc around the kinds of dumb liesand misunderstandings that could be easily resolved if the characters wouldjust level with each other for 30 seconds, "Guess Who" wouldcollapse under the weight of its sheer idiocy if it weren't for the factthat Simon is white, his fianc=E9e Theresa (Zoe Saldana) is black, and herfather (Bernie Mac) is none too pleased about having that fact sprung onhim.
About halfway through the movie, after taking a lot ofmildly amusing abuse from Daddy (and Bernie Mac can dish it out with wickeddelight) -- who is really more over-protective than prejudiced -- Simonstarts fighting back and a rivalry takes hold that brings this comedy backto life. Kutcher and Mac become uproarious junkyard dogs of undercuttinganimosity, yet curiously build a begrudging respect along the way, as directorKevin Rodney Sullivan ("Barbershop 2," "How Stella Got HerGroove Back") pulls off a successful balancing act on the electrifiedhigh wire of racial humor. The movie even pokes fun at the highly subjectivenature of what people consider offensive with a dinner scene during whichKutcher tells increasingly risky racial jokes, with Mac egging him on untilone goes too far for his tastes.
"Guess Who" sinks back into banality once thetwo men bond when both end up in the dog house with their women -- whoafter being depicted as the mature mates and sensible in their relationshipsfall into childish behavior themselves, stomping off during a disagreementand refusing to come home until the guys grovel for forgiveness.
So by the time the credits roll, the movie's sharp comedyand sheer idiocy just about cancel each other out. Whether the resultingbalance is worth the price of a movie ticket is just a matter of tasteand tolerance.