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Review: 'Guess Who' just funny enough

Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher make engaging team

By Paul Clinton

Guess Who
Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac in "Guess Who."
Bernie Mac
Ashton Kutcher

(CNN) -- At its core, "Guess Who" is just another story milking all the comedic possibilities regarding a girl introducing her future husband to her family.

Despite the fact that the husband-to-be is -- in his own words -- "pigment challenged," no real new ground is broken here: No one reinvents the wheel.

It's just "Meet the Parents" crossed with an inside-out "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (the latter the ostensible basis for "Guess Who") -- except both of those films are much, much better.

"Guess Who," which stars Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, has just barely enough chuckles to keep it on track.

Mac plays Percy Jones, a successful bank loan officer with two beautiful adult daughters. He's about to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary with his loving wife Marilyn, played by Judith Scott.

His oldest daughter, Theresa, played by Zoe Saldana ("Terminal" and "Pirates of the Caribbean"), decides to take this special occasion as an opportunity to introduce her new fiancé to her family. Her father, who is hopefully envisioning a cross between Denzel Washington and Tiger Woods, is instead confronted with the radically different Simon Green, played by Kutcher.

This tall, skinny, decidedly Caucasian guy is not Percy's idea of an ideal boyfriend -- let alone husband -- for his darling little girl.

Mindlessly amusing

There are two elements that make this comedy work, if at a fairly low level.

First, the humor is derived just as much from the characters as it is from the situation. The racial stereotypes and the clichés are all front and center, but they're usually treated cleverly by screenwriters David Ronn, Jay Scherick and Peter Tolan.

The second -- and more valuable -- element is the chemistry created between Mac and Kutcher.

Guess Who
Kutcher is the boyfriend taken home to meet the parents by Zoe Saldana.

The two men have totally different styles, but under the guidance of director Kevin Rodney Sullivan ("Barbershop" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back"), they somehow lift what could have been a downright awful film into something mindlessly amusing -- and even warm.

Neither Kutcher nor Mac is a brilliant actor, though Mac has major-league comedic talent. There's no scent of Oscar in the air with this film. But both men have appealing personas -- Mac the erupting volcano, Kutcher the shambling doofus -- and are adept at displaying them to their maximum effect. That ability works to "Guess Who's" benefit.

Who knows? In the future, Kutcher may have the chops to develop a range far beyond what he has displayed to date. Stranger things have happened, and this guy has been very savvy regarding his career moves (not to mention his personal life).

But I digress. Everyone can understand a father who feels that no man could ever be good enough for his daughter, and many of us have had the experience of trying to impress the family of the person we love. That's why this storyline has worked so well in so many films in the past -- and it will, again and again, in the future.

Which leaves "Guess Who" as a somewhat fun, if rather uneven, ride with a few clever scenes and enough comedic juice to keep Kutcher and Mac fans focused until the credits roll.

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