‘Something New’ is a fine Valentine’s date flick | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Something New’ is a fine Valentine’s date flick

Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) finds herself falling in love with her landscaper (Simon Baker) in "Something New."

I imagine it’s not shocking anymore when couples of different ethnicities date, but then again I’m not a parent and never think about such things, so as long as both parties are consenting and all, what’s the big deal, right?

Still, the subject of mixed relationships (on the surface at least) has been covered before in last year’s so-so movie, “Guess Who?” – a remake based on the groundbreaking “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” from 1967.

This time, though, we get well-grounded characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds in addition to the requisite color difference. “Something New” should make for an interesting date flick, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, what timing to have a romantic comedy available this weekend. It’s no coincidence, then, that Valentine’s Day serves as part of the backdrop in the film.

First-time feature director Sanaa Hamri is smart with the material she has, giving us the female perspective even if her experience as a motion picture director remains to be seen. Her previous directorial experience consisted primarily that of directing music videos for Mariah Carey and Prince on the small screen. Screenwriter Kriss Turner (also a woman) has a lot in common with her first-time director in that she, too, has primarily written for television, so both ladies have a lot riding on their first motion picture project together. Add to that producer Stephanie Allain, editor Melissa Kent, with music by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, and you get a true girls’ night out.

Sanaa (I know – same unique first name as the director) Lathan plays professional L.A. woman Kenya Denise McQueen who is all work and no play. She’s about to be rewarded for her work-related efforts in the accounting firm where she works as its next partner. Her girlfriends Cheryl, Suzzette, and Nedra (Wendy Raquel Robinson, Golden Brooks, Taraji P. Henson), all professionals in their own right, lament over the fact that 42.4 percent of black women will never marry.

Kenya’s co-worker decides to set her up with Brian Kelly (Simon Baker), who is a nice, free-spirited kind of guy, and very white. Kenya agrees to meet her blind date but isn’t too keen on what she sees at first. She’s uncomfortable with him being white for a relationship, but when she finds out that he’s a landscape artist she renews her interest in him because her house needs a face-lift in the gardening department! Oh, how convenient for Kenya! She hires him for his architectural experience, and guess what happens. OK, so you have to find out for yourself, but believe it or not, this little movie is OK. Predictable in its boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl syndrome, but still a nice spin on a well-covered-before plot.

One of the reasons the characters work is the believability factor. Dare I say, there is actually a chemistry that works between the principle players? That alone adds credibility to the story at hand. What seems forced, though, is the racial factor and how many of Kenya’s close friends and family react to her dating a white guy. Being well educated and professional, there’s an obvious reverse discrimination going on here, but it is a bit on the heavy side to almost go overboard with the fact that, gee, he’s white?

Writer Kriss Turner is smart, incorporating that 42.4 percent (at one point considered to be the title for this movie) of black women will never marry, and uses that as a springboard to get our attention and launch into the story here, but should also serve as a reminder that dating in one’s own race can be a limiting proposition at times.

I do like the choices tossed upon Kenya when her perfect match arrives in the form of corporate attorney Mark (Blair Underwood). Now he is someone her socially prominent, upper-income parents (Alfred Woodard, Earl Billings) would feel very happy to have as a prospective son-in-law. Because he’s successful? In part, but also because he’s black. OK, he’s also good-looking, too, so I’m sure that is a factor. The story becomes interesting in the fact that when all is said and done you follow your heart and not the advice from those around you. Kenya has to follow her own road even if the odds outwardly are stacked against her. Meanwhile, Brian is getting his own advice from Cheryl’s new boyfriend, Walter (Mike Epps). Brian, too, must follow his own heart and not get wrapped up into what others suggest what he should do.

This is the best “date flick” so far this year and, yes, that common phrase that causes some women to cringe (“chick flick”) does apply here, but trust me, guys, you’ll find entertainment value in this movie, and we all know a happy date can mean a better time before the evening is up.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.

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