For all the predictable critical outrage that someone (anyone) should remake Stanley Kramer's Trojan warhorse, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the truth is that the original is a badly dated slice of liberal paternalism which must have looked old fashioned even in 1967. And who better to do the dirty deed than Bernie Mac?
Mr Mac is not as well known as he should be in Britain - he's one of the throng in Ocean's 11, and you might have spotted him in Friday or Bad Santa - but he's yet to really unleash the full force of his personality in movies. As a standup comic - in the Kings of Comedy tour for instance - he takes no prisoners. It's hardly surprising that he's had to dilute that bad attitude gratifying that he's emerging as a very engaging screen presence - not least because his rough edges still show through occasionally. Look out for his baseball movie Mr 3000 on DVD in May.
But I digress. In short, it's timely and appropriate that this remake should reverse the cringe-inducing racial schema whereby benevolent Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn reluctantly accepted Sidney 'Colour Me Perfect' Poitier into their family. How much more challenging to have your daughter show up with Ashton Kutcher in tow?
(Let me quote a delicious line from a Canadian colleague, actually reviewing Kutcher's next release, A Lot Like Love: 'Ashton Kutcher continues to be a punchline for which no satisfactory joke has yet been written.')
The trouble with Guess Who is not that it besmirches the memory of a great film, nor even that Kutcher exhibits more chemistry with Mac than his fiancée (they even sleep together), it's that it doesn't quite muster the balls to ditch the platitudes and go for the tasteless black comedy it's clearly itching to be (highlight: an uncomfortable scene in which Ashton is goaded into regaling his hosts with racist jokes). What that says about the state of racial integration today I'm not at all sure, but if this winds up like a Meet the Parents clone, I still prefer it to the liberal platitudes of the original.