“Jumping the Broom” is a movie that’s poised to say something about the lives of black people, but then doesn’t.
This movie is a standard class war drama about a working class mother-in-law to be and her BAP (Black American Princess) future daughter-in-law. The broom jumping of the title dates back to some African cultures, where the broom was used in marriage ceremonies. The ritual re-emerged among African Americans after the publication of Alex Haley’s ground-breaking book “Roots.” According to Haley’s family memoir, black slaves “jumped the broom” as part of their wedding ritual because they were denied many of the other trappings of a standard American ceremony.
In this film, Pam (Loretta Devine) produces the broom that she and her late husband jumped over at their wedding, so that the family tradition can continue through their son, Jason (Laz Alonso). But future daughter in-law, Sabrina (Paula Patton) refuses to take part in such an inelegant enterprise.
Before we can get to the wedding and the much-debated broom jumping, we have to suffer through a “meet cute,” where Sabrina accidentally runs over Jason. After a whirlwind romance of a few months, things go awry when the two very different families meet for the first time at a weekend wedding in Martha’s Vineyard.
The class war takes precedence over everything in “Jumping the Broom.” It might have been more enlightening (pun intended) to explore the “light skinned” and “dark skinned” divide among African Americans rather than this contrived bourgeoisie vs. blue collar stuff. After all, the mother-in-law is quite a bit darker than the future daughter-in-law. This idea that there is tension between the various shades of African-Americans is rarely explored in American cinema (see Spike Lee’s illuminating “School Daze.”)
The only true stand-out performance in this drivel is Angela Bassett as Sabrina’s mother. Everyone else is forgettable. But here they are anyway: Megan Good, Tasha Smith, Romeo Miller, Julie Brown, DeRay Davis, Valarie Pettiford, and Mike Epps. The film is directed and co-produced by Salim Akil (“The Game”) in his feature film debut. The screenplay is Elizabeth Hunter (Beauty Shop) and Arlene Gibbs (Traitor), from a story by Elizabeth Hunter. T.D. Jakes, Tracey E. Edmonds, Curtis Wallace, Elizabeth Hunter and Glendon Palmer produce the project.
“Jumping the Broom has a running time of 1 hour and 48 minutes and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some sexual content.