Kingdom Come Movie Review
Director Doug McHenry strikes an impressively deft balance between slapstick and subtlety, satire and sincerity in the dysfunctional family funeral comedy "Kingdom Come."
Combining earnestly conflicted devotion with over-the-top raillery in much the same way "All In the Family" once did, the story concerns a clan called the Slocumbs gathering in their rural home town to say goodbye to an irascible patriarch. Daddy Bud, as he was known, was so universally disliked that his wife (Whoopi Goldberg) actually wants his headstone engraved with the eulogy "mean and surly."
The dead man's eldest son Ray Bud (LL Cool J) was probably closest to him, but his most vivid memory is of Daddy Bud ridiculing him over his drinking problem -- a problem he licked some time ago, although the stress of the funeral may cause a relapse.
Driving to town in a smoking beater of a junk yard sedan is younger son Junior (Anthony Anderson), the failed inventor/entrepreneur of a driveway polisher (?!?), who now lives in a trailer park with a constantly sassing harpy wife (Jada Pinkett Smith) and an unruly brood of hyperactive rugrats.
Rounding out the kinfolk is Daddy Bud's sister (Loretta Devine), who spends her time spouting scripture, passing judgement on everyone's lives, especially that of her do-nothing son (Darius McCrary), who is happy coasting through life on welfare.
Uniformly honest and affectionate performances engage the audience in the lives of this realistic ensemble, and the family dynamic rings admirably true as everyone struggles with mixed feelings about the not-so-dearly departed and about each other.
But what makes "Kingdom Come" so very entertaining is its carefully constructed cavalcade of crafty humorous asides and outright outrageous moments of screwball comedy.
Anderson and Pinkett Smith are an over-the-top riot as the quarrelsome trailer-trash couple, and their exaggerated antics are reinforced with astute little details that make their characters seem all the more true to life. Example: Pinkett Smith -- whose precision screwball performance is half Lucille Ball, half reptile -- clearly hasn't shaved her pits in a couple weeks.
But "Kingdom Come" isn't all about this currently fashionable brand of full-volume comedy. McHenry seems to have a sixth sense about which laughs to overplay, like letting Pinkett Smith chew scenery with ravenous aplomb, and which to underplay. Lots of hearty giggles come from the smallest details, like the funeral minister's lisp or the very brief shot of the hearse after it's been TP-ed by Smith and Anderson's uncontrollable children.
Even when this movie is at its most outrageous, however, all the Slocumbs still feel like real people with depth and soul. LL Cool J, playing a mechanic, has surprisingly solid blue-collar credibility. Vivica A. Fox strikes exactly the right tone as his wife, the family peacekeeper. Whoopi Goldberg -- who is a very hit-and-miss actor -- gives a steady, earnest turn as the matriarch who does not mince words.
Adapted from the play "Dearly Departed" by its original writers David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, "Kingdom Come" is a movie of nuances that I can't do justice to without describing entire scenes or spoiling jokes that out of context just won't make you laugh out loud like they will in the picture. I feel like I've done a disservice by not describing the film better in this review, but I don't know what else to say except, go see it. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
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