“Jumping the Broom” Review

When the trailer of Jumping the Broom began circulating on the net I was ecstatic. Finally! A black movie without Madea toting her piece of steel or Precious-esque caricatures was long overdue. Directed by Salim Akil (Girlfriends and The Game) and produced by Bishop T.D. Jakes, the romantic comedy delved into the surface class divisions among Blacks while celebrating Black love.

After an unsuccessful bout with men, Sabrina (Paula Patton) vows to God to “save her cookies” until marriage for her husband. Moments later Sabrina nearly hits Jason (Laz Alonso) with her car. After six months of courtship, Jason learns Sabrina is heading to China for her job. Jason makes the ultimate decision to leave Wall Street, propose to the love of his life and accompany her to China as husband and wife.

The Taylors and Watsons are from different sides of the track. They meet for the first time at the Watson’s Martha Vineyard estate where the wedding will take place. Pam (Loretta Devine), a postal worker, is annoyed with her son’s future wife for never crossing the bridge to Brooklyn to properly introduce herself. Her best friend and co-worker, Shonda (Tasha Smith), instructs her to give Sabrina a chance and remember the lessons she learned in anger management.

Pam is not impressed as she, her brother-in-law Uncle Willie (Mike Epps), her nephew Malcolm (DeRaye Davis) and Shonda arrive at the Martha’s Vineyard mansion. Before the luggage hits the curb, Pam can’t help but to throw shade at Sabrina and her mother Claudine (Angela Bassett). Claudine flaunts her family’s wealth and education by speaking French sporadically. She is a tad uppity, but more so proud of the lineage of her family who never were slaves, and in fact owned slaves. (Did they really just go there? Mis-education of the negro is alive and well.)

When Sabrina reveals she doesn’t want to jump the broom all hell breaks loose. Jumping the broom is a tradition in Jason’s family, dating back to slavery when slaves weren’t allowed to marry; and the only thing they could do to symbolize their union was jump the broom. Pam is livid at the suggestion of not jumping the broom and calls the family out on thinking they are “better than” because they have money.

Jason and Sabrina succumb to doubts on whether they should marry when their families continue to fight.  Lust is in the air between the maid of honor, Blythe (Meagan Good) and the chef, while Shonda fights her urge to cougar it up with 20-year-old Sebastian (Romeo Miller). Sabrina’s funny and crass aunt Geneva (Valarie Pettiford) causes quite the stir with drama and her impromptu “Sexual Healing” tribute to the couple since they haven’t had sex in six months. And a curveball is thrown in the plot when gasping family secrets are revealed.

Jumping the Broom was refreshing in the sense that it depicted multi-dimensional characters. Black love was celebrated; and for the most part the despicable Black woman tropes- emasculating, downtrodden, bitchy, hopeless- were non-existent. Creating a space for educated and successful Blacks, who’s origin is not predated to poverty is a story that needs to be told more often.

My problem with the film was the extremities of the class distinctions. Pam as the working-poor widowed mother who was attitudinal, uncultured, mouthy and domineering didn’t work for me. The Taylors arrived on Martha’s Vineyard as the poor Black people that have never been anywhere or seen anything. Uncle Willie joked about not having ever been on a boat because he thought it would take him back to Africa. In another scene  Kunta Kinte was the butt of jokes. Pam didn’t know shrimp cocktail was served cold, and criticized her son for their reception menu consisting of sushi and oysters. At the other end of the spectrum was the elite Watsons. Although the father, Mr. Watson (Brian Stokes Mitchell) was modest, Claudine boasts about spending a half a million on her daughter’s education. Her occasional blurts of French in front of a room full of people who don’t speak French, and her believing the Taylor’s to be “simple” and “tacky” was over the top.

Class distinctions don’t have to be so extreme to the point it’s unrealistic. Someone from the hood can have traveled abroad and appreciate the delicacies of Japanese cuisine. And people with degrees and wealth can be down-to-earth. Not all wealthy Blacks are uppity, just as not all poor Blacks are uncultured. Anyone who knows people from both ends of the spectrum understand this.

Although this film tried hard to steer away from Tyler Perry similarities, it failed. The cringe worthy comments made by Epps, Devine and DeRaye Davis were borderline coonery. The preachy religious messages we were bombarded with were overdone ( Arielle Loren’s piece on this is worth the read). Stereotypes weren’t exactly null and void either. Besides a man in drag, a substantially better written and directed script, Jumping the Broom looked slightly similar to the tired formulaic methods perfected by Mr. Perry.

The star-studded cast carried the film. Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett are veterans who have nailed those types of characters time and time again. Meagan Good played the same gold-digging typecast role she has played in every movie and TV show. Laz Alonso did exceptionally well as his first leading role, whereas Paula Patton’s performance fell flat. She was nothing more than a reincarnation of her Just Wright character.

At best, the movie was cute. It was not a great movie.

Blacks are so desperate for positive representation on the big screen that anything that is the antithesis of Perry will get raving reviews. I get it. We want to see a balance of something other than the tragic poor ignorant Black people who can’t catch a break in life. However, arguable and subjective positivity alone has never won Oscars. And the last time I checked, cute never equated to great. Unfortunately, cute may be all we can hope for when the only other option is a man in a dress.

  • shelahmarie

    Ok, as usual I think you writing is sophisticated, while still keeping an ear to the streets, per se. But this film — "same is different day" if you ask me. "Positive" black love and blah blah. Or, I could be the world's most bitter cynic. Either way, great post Bene.

    • WrittenbyBene

      Thanks wifey! No you're not a cynic. You're an artist who wants to see good art. Although I can appreciate the film for what it intended to do, and what it did in many ways other Black films haven't done lately, I still wanted more. Where is the creativity? This storyline is played out. I want to see Black folks making movies like "Limitless," "Inception," "Hanna," etc. All excellent movies. If we're at least not making those films I wish we were cast in them. The white dad and daughter in "Hanna" could have easily been interchanged with a black man and daughter. At least if our presence is represented more in films that reach a larger demographic, maybe ideas will start to change of what Blackness is or isn't. Right now we are marginalized and we are depicted as monolithic. I support indie Black films. And I hope to God they start getting the marketing and distribution they deserve.

      • I want to see more movies like that as well. Where are those? At some point, a mostly black cast in film should have more to do. Too many times characters in these movies are just flat. I want to see more. Much more. “Jumping the Broom” is saved by Bassett and Devine; however, I expected to see less coonery since it was not a TP film, but got the same amount in some spots. Not my idea of fun. Anyhoo, great job on the review. Your comment here is what really made me smile, though. I have thought the very same thing for a number of years. Maybe one day someone will tackle one of these themes usually seen in white films, and put it into motion with a black cast. Hey, maybe it will be TP. 

      • Ceeroe3

        Check out Ava DuVernay & Forward Movement Films.

  • dkypaco

    My mother and I read historical romance novels as a hobby. This usually means we are reading about some Duke in England trying to marry a scullery maid or something, not exactly representative of us, but it was something. Then about 15 years ago Arabesque books came out, feature black romance novels and black historicals (a major sub-genre apparently). The first books were… awful. At 15 I could write better with no research or high school degree. But as bad as they were, we supported because as my mom said, it's a platform to get better. And it did, and I found some wonderful authors.

    I wrote all that because I agree wholeheartedly with your critique but hope that it is a path way for the great things that will come in the future. Fingers-crossed.

  • I think the extreme classes was to draw attention to how separate we can be toward each other at times. One key point that the movie did bring out is the need for getting to know someone and their issues that they bring into a relationship. You may not get all of them but being around their family and friends may reveal some of them.

  • Sarah C.

    I can totally appreciate what you're saying. I haven't seen the movie yet and I've been skeptical about paying money to see a movie that I already know how it's going to go. You've sparked an interest for me and maybe…just maybe…I will go and view it this weekend.

    I agree with your comment about why we can't have great movies like "Limitless", "Inception", and "Hanna". Carmund and I was having this discussion recently. It's like we (our people) are "emotional cutters". We like oppression and love to see our oppressed ways on the screen. Why? We ALL have issues but that doesn't mean that the "thought to be" most common issue has to be shown time and time again. We've got to do better than this!

    Thanks for the post Bene!

  • Sarah C.

    Saw the movie last night and it was cute. I can appreciate what they were going for. No it wasn't a TP Production (thank God!) but still has a ways to go.

    • WrittenbyBene

      Yeah I definitely appreciate Akil for the balance he brought that hasn't been seen in a long time.

  • I left the theater after seeing 'Jumping The Broom' relieved that it didn't prompt that cringe-inducing feeling I felt after watching Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family. (Yes, I went to see the film fully aware that there was a strong possibility it would play on stereotypes and caricatures (#dontjudgeme lol — I have this conflict where I'm an avid supporter of African-American films and filmmakers but more often than not, I'm embarrassed by Perry's recycled storylines and stereotypical content).

    That aside, I thought Perry's latest film was way over the top and took generalizations that are often planted on the black culture (i.e, loud ghetto baby mother, drug dealing boyfriend, distressed black woman) to a whole other level. It was probably his worst film yet. So I had high expectations for Salim Akil's film, especially given the previews which appeared to be promising and the quality of work he and his wife has delivered in the realm of television.

    The film delivered a quality storyline and multi-dimensional characters (as you stated above) but I too, took notice of the severe class distinctions. However, I didn't find myself AS bothered by them as I viewed the film (probably because they were much lighter in comparison to Perry's work). I, too, wish that black films can rid themselves of the stereotypes all together and deliver movies that are on par with films created by our counterparts such as Inception. But in doing that, are we failing to acknowledge a reality (or rather a group of people) that DO exist in our community? You argued that "Not all wealthy Blacks are uppity just as not all poor Blacks are uncultured. Anyone who knows people from both ends of the spectrum understands this".

    I certainly understand it but those people do exist who fit the description of what was portrayed in the movie. I know a few Malcolm's, Pam's and Claudine's. Despite how much we want to move away from these stereotypes, they still exist. And that isn't a reason to continue to shed light on them but the purpose of many films are to use art to mirror reality so that it provides a certain type of authenticity.

    You have to keep the targeted audience in mind as well. I know Pam's who wouldn't have any interest in a film such as 'Inception' but a film like 'Jumping The Broom' attracts them because it's someone on screen who they can relate to. I guess my question is .. should the Pam's of the world be ignored because their behavior (for a lack of a better word) continues to perpetuate the stereotypes in the black community or can we just accept the kind of balance that Akil provided in this film? I think Akil did a fair job doing that in this film. He didn't ignore that these class distinctions exist but they also weren't the nucleus of the film (a great contrast from Perry's work).

    However, I agree that it is long overdue that our directors and writers move in a direction that puts our films on the same playing field as other thought-provoking films such as Inception. We are fully capable.

    Great piece Bene! I enjoy reading other views especially from like-minded individuals such as yourself that challenge my opinions and thoughts.

    • WrittenbyBene

      I mostly agree with everything you've written. And maybe I did take it too far by comparing this to Tyler Perry's work. *reflecting on that now* But the movie didn't move me. I understand that this may be because I expected more than I should have.

      "But in doing that, are we failing to acknowledge a reality (or rather a group of people) that DO exist in our community?"

      I don't think in any shape, fashion, or form do I want the characters that may be a bit stereotypical to never be portrayed. In fact, I'm an advocate that we NOT ignore them, and that their voice is heard. My problem is that there isn't a balance. Look at the movies that get the green-light from Hollywood with an all Black cast. Usually they are movies that portray us in a very negative light. People who don't know we aren't a monolith, which is the majority of Americans and foreigners, walk away from seeing those images as the totality of the Black experience. Traveling overseas is a quick reminder that Blacks are viewed negatively in most parts of this world partly because what they see in media- tv, film, etc. Until there that balance where the positive is seen more frequently, I don't want to see coonery or stereotypical depictions(not saying this movie was that).

      Don't mistake my constructive criticisms as me saying the movie was bad. Or even that people shouldn't go see it. I hope it continues to do well. I'm very well aware of the target audience "Jumping the Broom" intended to reach. I just think there is a difference between a cute movie and a gooood movie. LOL. Really not speaking negatively about the movie at all.

      I'm just ready for the films that don't have to have this storyline of the supposed "black experience" that is tired and trite. Where are the movies about a Black woman who travels abroad to find herself? I actually know several women who've done this. Where are the movies about Black men or women who move to a big city to pursue a dream? Or the Black girl attending Yale living the Ivy league life? There are so many options to explore. I want diversity like "Night Catches Us," "Moo-slum," and "Frankie & Alice" that got little to no marketing.

      I feel slightly bad that I critiqued a somewhat positive Black film when Blacks are already struggling for representation on the big screen. But I have to be true to me and my audience. I hope it reads as a fair review. Thanks for reading. Your comment is dead on.

  • TMass

    I find myself once again offended by your harsh review of yet another mainstream black film. When I read some of the comments that have been made about the "over the top" stereotypes, I can't help but wonder where in America ya'll live. I personally live in the great state of Texas in (what should be it's capital) Houston and let me tell you, these aren't stereotypes.

    These movies (including TP) represent the culture as we are continuing to present it. I've spent the better part of last evening catching up on your extremely well-written articles and posts and although I'm impressed with you as a wordsmith, I'm a little bothered by your unwillingness to report the WHOLE picture. Let me be clear before you read another word, I am a fan of your writing and your desire to tackle subject matter that most bloggers and writers stray away from because of their controversial subject matter.

    Having said that, in the case of this movie and even the articles on domestic violence, as a community we have to be willing to highlight all of our wrongs – not just the ones that are obvious. Misogyny, violence, drugs, and ghetto life are all subject matters that sell out in the black community (even the bourgeois black community). Listen to our music. Why are Jill Scott and Mos Def still considered "underground" artists and Lil Wayne has the power to sell out a football stadium?

    There is never, ever, ever, ever, ever a reason for a man to put his hands on a woman… Ever! There is also never a reason for a woman to subject herself to be in a relationship with a man who has shown that he has a propensity for violence and misogyny. Joe Budden? Really? I mean why is that guy not rapping about the trials and tribulations of being perpetually single? I am not looking down on the video vixens of the world but if you lay down with dogs… That is not to say that anyone deserves that type of abuse but in many situations, it is avoidable. Life is truly about expectations and what a person is willing to accept. It sadden me to hear the Chris Brown and Rhianna are Twitter followers of each other. Where is her annoyance for his audacity?

    Same goes for the movies. As long as we refuse to support indie projects that show us in a positive light, then we will continue to get the Tyler Perrys of the world. As long as we can continue to identify with Loretta Devine's reoccurring "Lord, honey chile" momma role, then that is exactly what we will get. We are the consumers, we are the driving force behind creativity. Think of this way, without your followers your blog would be just another grain of sand on the internet beach. You answer to your readers (so to speak) and write for their enjoyment, understanding, and pleasure. The proof is in the following.

    So what am I saying? I'm saying before we pick up our pitch forks and go attack the messengers of our community because their messages are inflammatory, let us ensure that we are not perpetuating the stereotypes. We are just as much to blame for the ghetto mentality of the characters in Jumping the Broom as the writer. We expect less and so far, our expectations have been exceeded!

  • Nick

    This is a joke.

    Your verbal lashing of TP betrays the depth of your own anger. I went back and read a few of your other post and its obvious that you are insecure about the media portrayal of Black women who are “attitudinal, uncultured, mouthy and domineering.” As a black man who is dating a beautiful sister who is none of those things, I can tell you that the type of angry black women who you don’t like to see depicted in the media do exist. In fact they represent a significant percentage of our community and consistent light needs to be shed on this element in our community as well as the other elements. Now with that said, I think you are right about the low quality of artistry in most of TP’s work. Now we can pretend that TP is the cause of this problem, but the reality is he is not. Look around you, most people are attracted primarily to the lowest, most degrading content being created – from porn to reality TV shows. This is bigger than TP, he is just another pawn trying evolve into something else. Let’s give him a chance and see how he will work out his own salvation.

    • Anonymous

      “Your verbal lashing of TP betrays the depth of your own anger.” It wasn’t a verbal lashing. It was quite eloquent if you ask me. LOL. What won’t happen is you coming to MY website to insult me while projecting your issues with black women onto me. The rest of your post sounds self-hating and filled with too many generalizations for me to even comment on. If your only response to the stereotypes of black women in media (that are incredibly problematic) is, “In fact they represent a significant percentage of our community and
      consistent light needs to be shed on this element in our community as
      well as the other elements,” than that says more about you than it does black women. Please check yourself.

  • Realone

    I saw this  movie, and I agree, it was “cute” but not very good.  I  may however, be one of the few who was not impressed with Bassett and Devine’s portrayal of the same characters they seem to portray in nearly every film appearance.  Especially for Devine, I am tired of the sass-mouth, slurred “speeching” character. She’s been acting for what, 30 years?  I wonder whether she really can act.  The whole spilling of the family secret was over the top–what mature adult would do that? The discrepancies between the two “classes” was far too heavy-handed.  These were not characters, but caricatures.  To go a little further, and I’m sure I’ll be nailed for this one, but our black actors could spend more time honing their craft.  Most of our contemporary actors are just not very good.  Tasha Smith?  Janet Jackson?  LisaRaye?  Tia and Tamera?  Malcolm Jamal Warner?  Megan Good?  Stacy Dash? And dare I say…Taraji?   Where’s Kimberly Elise and Sanaa Lathan when we need them?  

  • Cag1970

    I wrote my own review of “Jumping the Broom” some time ago, and I will say here what I said in it.  The only person to whom jumping said broom was important was Pam.  Had she not mentioned it, no one else would have – because everyone else was perfectly content to let the bride and groom do things their way.  That, and the dreadful family secret, fell flat to me.

    I love Angela Bassett, and I’d like Loretta Devine more if she wasn’t always cast as the Loud Black Woman.  And I did like what Brian Mitchell – sorry, I knew of him long before he tossed the “Stokes” into his screen name, for whatever reason – did with his character.  He actually might have been the deepest character in a movie with a healthy case of the shallows.

  • Bbwblakebaby Jct

    Personally I agree with Bene. As a Black woman I’m tired of the sterotypes that have been put on us as a people. I’m tired of a great many writers pandoring and perpetuating these stereotypes. I was excited about this movie! Thinking that for once we would not be portrayed as a homonogenious people we are not! We were not before our ancestors reached the shores of this country and we are NOT now! And to represent us with these tired characterations is dishonest and a hinderence to us ALL!

  • MissX

    As a non black person, who lives in Europe but had a black american boyfriend, I dont understand why these type of movies stereotype all black people into one type of group. I simly dont get it? What’s the purpose of saying that every black person likes fried chicken, are loud, ghetto, overly religious, funny/jesters and so on? When it’s obviously not true, yes certainly there is a group of people in the black community who is just like this, but what about the people who are NOTHING like this, arent they part of the community? I mean it seems to me that every time you watch a movie by Tyler Perry or in this case Jumping the broom, it always has to be extreme rather than telling the REAL story.  I mean there a lot of movies that could be made with a black cast, that people would watch without the stereotypes, I think in a sense other non black people would appreciate it more, because they would see another side of the culture, other than just looking at black americans as funny.  Black people are among the most interesting cultures that I’ve met in the USA, besides native americans. So I simply don’t understand why “black directors” have to take down their own culture, there is so much beauty within the black culture, not only from the people and their struggle but from a cultural perspective too.  I would want to see a movie with a black cast, without the typical references but actually something new and refreshing… Peace and love  =)