Archive for May, 2011

They Call Me Mr. Broaddus

“I don’t know, but I never pictured you as a teacher.  But once I thought about it, that’s exactly what you’ve been for a very long time.  Whether it was as a pastor, youth leader, husband/father – you have maintained a role as an educator for a long time.  Really, this is just another facet of a path you are already on.” –Renzee Standberry

I hate it when friends break you down.  It’s like they know you or something.  When I last wrote about me looking for work, I mentioned that I was willing to do whatever to make ends meet but the big picture involved me wanting to change the direction of my life and do something closer to my heart and skill set.  Who knew that I’d end up a teacher?

An administrative assistant at our sons’ school asked if I’d be interested in being a substitute teacher.  Sally and I kicked the idea around, with her pointing out that I’d developed quite the heart for kids, including wanting to teach them creative writing through programs like Second Story.  (I’m not oblivious to the fact that she may have been trying to spin things as she had earlier convinced me to be the boys’ Cub Scout leader.)  Then our pastor’s wife, who is also the Dean of The Oaks Academy, heard about this possible interest/  Suddenly I’m putting twenty years as a scientist and ten years as a professional writer to good use as a full-time in house sub at two schools.

To my great surprise, my sons love having me at their school.  In fact, for some reason I’m a rock star in my oldest’s class.  I was shocked that they weren’t too old or too cool to be seen with me.  Though, I am also keenly aware that they assumed a party would erupt as soon as “dad” entered the room.  In fact, I wondered if I was letting them get away with too much as I quickly got the reputation at their school as “the nice sub”.

Okay, my laid back style helped.*  I ain’t trying to let a bunch of kids drive me crazy and make me yell at them.  (And yes, I really did do a reading of King’s Justice in my class of fifth graders once, which held them in rapt attention).  But I received the biggest compliment from  a group of my fifth grade boys when they asked me to transfer with them to middle school.  Caught in a moment of honesty they said:  “We don’t listen well, but you get us.  You don’t think we’re bad.”

That pretty much summed up my experience there.  It broke my heart how many kids want me as their dad simply because I talk to them, listen to them and hug them.  So the whole experience has me thinking.  I’d love to somehow combine the experiences, bringing The Oaks Academy methods to a public school environment.  I don’t know.  I do know that I fell in love with the kids and since many of them live in my neighborhood , I’ll be seeing them often.  Some have already started bicycling by so they can say “hi”.

But the school year draws to an end and I’ll be once again scrambling to find work to make ends meet.  But I think I’m catching a vision for what I’d like to be doing.  Maybe in the fall, I’ll be looking toward doing this on a more permanent basis.  First things first, let’s make it through the summer.

*And I won’t lie: I never got tired of writing my name on the board and announcing “They call me Mr. Broaddus”.

Justin Bieber Never Say Never – A Review

When I was in junior high school, Michael Jackson made his iconic appearance on Motown 25.  Our choir teacher, a child of the Motown era, had recorder the entire show and for any who had missed it.  Three girls in our class screamed and then burst into tears at Michael Jackson’s performance, then made us rewind and watch it, all to fresh rounds of screams and tears every time, for the entire hour.  That was my earliest memory of (pre-)teen fandom and all I can picture as “Beliebers” watch Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never.

Following in the teen sensation footsteps of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber is served up as the latest teen girl squeal-delivery service.  The movie opens with a tribute to his origins as a viral internet sensation before offering up glimpses of Bieber’s headlining stint at Madison Square Garden last year with backstage footage and biographical info.  The thing is, there is the potential for actual exploration of a pop sensation, but this isn’t that sort of movie.

The drama of growing up poor to a single mom in Ontario, Canada is only touched on.  And though Bieber taught himself to play several instruments, the movie skims over this to get to the mythology of him coming under the wing of record-label maestro Scooter Braun and mentor Usher.

The mythology as well as all image-crafting is for the benefit of his fans.  Fan – an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer. Short for Fanatic – a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal. Fans have a special attachment to the object of their affection.  They want a piece of  the object of their fandom, they want to (demand to) consume them.  The fact is that we are to be a joyous people, to laugh, to sing, to dance, all to express the joy within us. Part of the “fan confusion” lies in the fact that we are wired to worship.  And the object of our fandom are no more than idols.

There is a lot of gloss to pop culture, a celebration of celebrity, calculated fakeness passing for “reality”.  So much is counterfeit that it’s difficult to get to what’s authentic and what really matters.  We need to recognize hype and exchange it for reality.  We can combat this mindset by continually renewing our relationships with (and what it means to revere) God  and with the people in our relational orbits.

The biggest problem with Never Say Never is that it is a biopic of someone who hasn’t made much of an impact.  In the landscape of pop culture, he’s a flash in the pan and hasn’t been on the scene long enough (in age or career) for there to be much of an exploration of him.  And a movie about the behind-the-scenes machinations of the whole “Justin Bieber” enterprise and exploring the pressures of celebrity on a child isn’t the kind of movie meant to be spoonfed to fans.  It is what it is, a 3-D karaoke show and, fan or not, the film has its charms.

Renzee was his government name…

The world stopped for Emir Abdur Rahim in 1993. Actually, I knew him by a different name before he converted to Islam and yet our lives have followed parallel paths.

Actually, I knew him as Renzee Standberry.  We were celebrating Al-Fitr the last time we saw each other face-to-face.  I’m looking back over the number of times he has guest blogged for me:  on the topic of community from a Muslim perspective, we’ve wrestled with the nature of God’s wrath, and he responded to those people who believe Muslims hate them (part I and part II).

Renzee and I were friends in high school.  Well, friends may be a strong word (I was far too introverted and too guarded to do friendships especially well).  Let’s just say that we had an interesting relationship.  He was cool, confident, smart (and wasn’t afraid to let you know just how good he was at everything).  I liked being around him, was shocked that he let me in his circle, and though I am loathe to admit it, he’s who I measured my ideas of “blackness” against in high school.  He’s inspired more than one character in my stories, but for those who read my story Nurse’s Requiem, the relationship between the two male leads pretty much sum up Renzee and I.

In the mid-90s, he was sent to prison, convicted of rape.  As those who know me are aware, this is a topic that has struck too close to home too often.  (In fact, Wrath James White guest blogged for me on the topic and it was my intro of him, his guest blog, and my comments about imprecatory prayer which lead to Renzee guest blogging on God’s wrath).  I’m not going to say that it was an easy time for me and Renzee’s friendship.  It’s difficult reconciling a person who did a horrific thing with the person you knew and cared about.  You have the relational rug pulled out from under you.  You try to balance them receiving the consequences for their actions vs loving them well and walking beside them through it.  We had some tough conversations, put in the relational work, and managed to maintain our friendship.  If nothing else, you hold onto the hope that the person you knew and loved wasn’t a lie, they were just lost for a time.

Believing that people can change is what we’re supposed to be about.  And I watched Renzee change and grow into the man I knew he was.  Over the years, we’d become amused by our similar spiritual trajectories, me in Christianity, he in Islam.  We’d argue, ask questions, argue some more, build bridges between our communities (showing that dialogue can occur), rose to leadership, left leadership, found ourselves leaders again despite our efforts.

We’re quick to write people off in relationships.  We treat relationships like any other disposable item in our life:  it/they screw up, we go get a new one.  It’s easy to write people off, not forgive them, or give them the opportunity to show they’ve changed.  It’s easy to condemn them as irredeemable or failed.  It’s easy to forget our incarcerated brothers and sisters.  Sometimes it’s too difficult to see them behind bars.  Sometimes we just don’t want to put in the time of relationships.  But the friendships can be maintained and people can grow and change if you allow them to.

Me and Renzee continue to push in on each other’s lives, challenge each other (he still likes to remind me that he’s way smarter than me), and I’m proud to call him my friend.   He’s recently been spotlighted in an article regarding the work he’s been doing while in prison. I just wanted to share this with you.*

*Plus, today’s his birthday and this gets me out of having to actually get him something.

Mo*Con VI: Return of the Mo Re-Cap

There is no easy way to explain Mo*Con.  It’s kind of like reducing a typical writers’ convention and reducing it to the best part:  the room parties and hang out time in the bar.  Sometimes I think of it as a family reunion, where you’re always bringing in new family and the dynamics of relationships are always in flux.  Sometimes I think I over-think it:  it’s a group of writers basically hanging out in the con suite all weekend talking.

So let’s see:  bring in Cullen Bunn, Lee Thomas, Lucien Soulban, and Danny Evarts, sprinkle with a dash of Lucy Snyder, Jason Sizemore, Chesya Burke, and D. Harlan Wilson, invite a bunch of friends and what do you get?  A great time.  A friend of mine asked me about the metrics of measuring a successful Mo*Con.  I came up with three ways to measure it:

1.  Count conversations.  I love the conversations that go on at Mo*Con.  From the industry chatter to some very frank and personal conversations.  We try to give as much room for that as possible.  What we try to create is an environment for people to feel safe to be themselves, to have those conversations, and to build relationships.

What has been a hallmark of Mo*Con, what has always impressed me about this group, is how we can have meaningful and spirited conversation, yet still be respectful.  People can fundamentally disagree, but they are willing listen to each other and intelligently discuss their points of view.   We’ve talked about issues of race, gender, spirituality, and sexuality—bringing every bit of our experience and history and passions and beliefs to those discussions—and somehow still survived.  Because we take the time to listen to each other’s stories.*

2.  Count laughs and tears.  Friends and family can laugh together, can cry together, and be there for one another.  A particular highlight was when we, as a community, thanked Sara Larson for not only all of her hard work, but also wanted to let her know how much she means to us.  Those are the special times you hold in your heart and cherish for years.  Mo*Con is about relationships and we measure its success by how well its attendants feel loved.

3.  Count waistline.  Look here:  a Friday night dinner chicken marsala and fettucine alfredo;  a Saturday afternoon lunch choice of shrimp etoufee or lasagna;  a Jamaican dinner of jerk chicken, curried chicken, rice & peas, and Jamaican patties; and a Sunday brunch of eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, and beef tournedos (not to mention the Philly cheesesteak sandwiches later).  I’m just going to thank Sara Larson, Trista Robichaud, Kathy Watness, Michelle Pendergrass, Ro Griffin, and Rob Rolfingsmeyer for putting that together.  I’ll spare you our pre-Mo*Con, late night Mo*Con**, and post Mo*Con menu antics.

So, by any measure, Mo*Con VI was a success.  So much so that Mo*Con VII is well underway in terms of planning.  I truly love this gathering of friends … but I’m glad it only happens once a year.

[Returns to Operation:  Sleep for a Week]

*Speaking of which, I won’t be stopping the dialogue on the church and the issue of homosexuality on my blog.

**Allow me to repeat:  I don’t feel one bit of bad for anyone who decides to wash down a late night White Castle run with whiskey.

Fanboy and Chum Chum – A Review

Via Frederator Studios, which brought us The Fairly OddParents, comes Fanboy and Chum Chum.  Created by Eric Robles, the CGI animated show follows the misadventures of two seemingly hyper-caffeinated geeks.  Fanboy is a … fanboy of all things comic books, fantasy, and sci-fi, who dresses in the underwear-on-top-a-unitard standard regalia of superheroes.  Chum Chum is his faithful sidekick.  They pretty much just live out their comic romps fueled by their imaginations, their kooky worldview, and zeal for life.

The show isn’t an attack on nerds nor does it make fun of them.  It literally places them front and center and lets the power of their enthusiastic nerdiocity both create and resolve various situations.    Only are only eight episodes are on the DVD release:

-Wiz Boy

-The Janitor Strikes Back

-Dollar Day

-Trading Day

-Chimp Chomp Chumps

-Fanboy in the Plastic Bubble

-Fan vs. Wild

-Freeze Tag

In a culture that wants to champion originals while conforming people into similar molds, this show rejoices in those who are different and lets them revel in their uniqueness.  What makes them different, what gives them their unique voice, is how they come at life and the world. It’s what makes many be seen or treated as “weirdos”.  Yet we all come from the same Creator, created in His image, with his creative Spirit, so it’s all right to love art for art’s sake.  It’s alright to be fans.  We can listen to beautiful music and feel God’s presence.  We can become lost in a painting and let it wordlessly speak to us.  We can get transported by a story and learn lessons about ourselves.  Because the art that we are such fans of reminds us not only of our humanity but also of the story we find ourselves in.

There’s no easy way to describe the adventures of Fanboy and Chum Chum, because the show literally makes little sense.  It’s not supposed to.  It’s absurd and our heroes defuse the weird scenarios they find themselves in by their sheer ridiculousness.  And there’s plenty for any would-be geek—adults and kids alike—to enjoy, from their pop culture riffs to their insane humor.

Thor – A Review

“It’s Thor’s-day, but Son-day’s a-comin’!”

Though he made his Marvel Comics debut back in 1962, Thor hasn’t really gotten the play that many of the Marvel pantheon has.  Unlike Iron Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four, Thor is in a difficult spot when it comes to making the super-hero aspects of his character interesting.  Like the Hulk (or DC’s Superman), he has the upper level powers of a god.  To further complicate matters, he actually is a god, though with those staggering powers at least comes a rich back story.

When it comes to mythmaking, or making the most out of mythic figures, a couple of scribes come to mind:  J. Michael Straczynski, author of television (Babylon 5), comics (Strange, Silver Surfer, Thor) and movies (Ninja Assassin).  Like Neil Gaiman, another versatile writer who also sprang to mind to script the movie, his work manages to bring a sense of humanity to mythic figures.

This makes Kenneth Branaugh the perfect choice to helm such a movie.  Both as an actor and director, he is closely associated with Shakespeare.  A long time comic book reader himself, he adds a fanboy’s enthusiasm to his skillset.  He stages the political-familial infighting with emotional intensity and crafts a very human tale.

“Once mankind accepted a simple truth that they were not alone in this universe.” –Odin

The Asgardians, Thor’s people who live in the eternal realm of Asgard, as depicted in the movie, are basically a race of aliens using a mixture of technology so advanced it comes across as magic or as they put it, “where science and magic are one.”  As intergalactic guardians and peace keepers, they are like the Green Lantern Corps with a lot more pomp and circumstance.  Their long time foes, the Frost Giants, of Jottenheim, are yet another alien race.

The relationship of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his (half) brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes across like the biblical brothers, Jacob and Esau, vying for their father’s blessing.  Thor is a hothead, impetuous, proud, vain, arrogant, reckless, and ultimately dangerous.  Loki is the prince of lies, always seeking his agenda.  Their wise yet aging father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes Thor when he leads an unauthorized and ill-advised on Jotunheim (along with his warrior buddies Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Josh Dallas), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano)). Odin’s punishment: Thor is dispatched to Midgard (Earth) separated from his magical hammer, Mjolnir, which takes on an Excalibur aspect as it cannot be wielded except by one who is worthy of its power.

“A wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.” –Odin

A depowered Thor is found, well, hit with a van, by a group of scientists:  astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and her mentor, Dr. Erik Sevig (Stellan Skarsgard).  Mixing elements from both his Marvel and Ultimate universe incarnations, Thor runs around Earth for a bit which eventually leads to a confrontation with the Destroyer, a robotic piece of Asgard-tech.

“It’s not a bad thing finding out you don’t have all the answers.  Only then do you start asking the right questions.” – Erik Sevig

The idea of “gods” and “powers” may sit uncomfortably with some.  With texts like “…worship Him, all you gods” (Psalms 97:7), one does have to wrestle with the notion that the Old Testament took them as a reality.  I am reminded of what Scot McKnight wrote about Gerald McDermott, in his book God’s Rivals.  He contended that the Old Testament contained four views of the religions:

1. Some neighborly pluralism: there are some real gods; they are subordinate to YHWH; we can get along as long as they leave us alone.
2. Competitive pluralism: the gods of others rebelled against YHWH and are not worthy of honor.
3. Vehement missionary exclusivism: others are devoted to gods who are not really gods.
4. Cosmic war: religions are communities animated by powers hostile to YHWH.
These models of response are not mutually exclusive; and there is evidence in the OT for progression of thinking about the religions of others.

“There’s always a purpose to everything your Father does.” –Frigga

Also, Loki and Thor’s relationship reminded me of a parable in the New Testament:  “Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’   “The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ Later on he thought better of it and went.   The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’ But he never went.  Which of the two sons did what the father asked?”   They said, “The first.”  Jesus said, “Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God’s kingdom. John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn’t care enough to change and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32)

“Can I come home?” –Thor

We’ve named several of the days of the week after Thor (Thursday) and his family.  Speaking of which, with only a handful of lines, Rene Russo is wasted as Odin’s wife, Frigga (Friday).  The movie dragged a bit in the middle with him being earthbound.  Thematically, it almost works as being as purposeless and drifting as Thor himself, confused about who he was, where he belonged, and which direction the movie should take.  The movie walks quite the tightrope and could easily have fallen into campy territory with the slightest misstep.  But the effects were terrific, the performances toned down, and the action gave it a sparkling vitality.  If it’s possible for a popcorn movie to have a grand yet whimsical feel, then Thor does it.

Bridesmaids – A Review

“Maid of Dishonor”

As a guy, I honestly went into Bridesmaids with fairly low expectations.  All I could picture was a “chick flick”, one centered around a wedding at that, that was a romantic comedy waiting to spring out from behind the bushes as soon as I dropped my guard.  What I got was a movie in the vein of The Hangover, obviously made for the hordes of women demanding one.

“What’s wrong with me?” –Annie

The movie opens introducing Annie (Kristen Wiig), mid-booty call with Ted (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) an unrepentant, self-absorbed pig of a man who represents where she is in life.  Her bakery business went under, she’s at a job her mother had to secure, living with roommates she can’t stand, and thus is depressed and needy.  Then her best friend since childhood, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), asks her to be her maid of honor.  To further complicate matters, Annie finds herself in competition for the spot with Helen (Rose Byrne), the wealthy trophy wife of Lillian’s groom-to-be’s boss.  At the perception of someone else horning in on her best friend slot, especially when she sees herself as outclassed in class, taste, and emotional stability, Annie spirals out of control in ever increasing fashion.

Co-written with Annie Mumolo, a fellow veteran of the Groundlings comedy troupe, Wiig tailors Annie to her comedic strengths:  awkward situations brought to a fever pitch combined with a deft touch of physical comedy.  This is taken up a notch as the other bridesmaids are brought into the picture:  the peppy and naive Becca (Ellie Kemper, The Office), the tired of life as a mother and wife Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), and the brutally in your face Megan (Melissa McCarthy, Gilmore Girls).

“You don’t know me.” –Annie

The movie consciously, gives short shrift to the actual wedding itself, focusing more on the stress it creates on relationships.  Like with Jumping the Broom, it inadvertently questions the point of a huge (read:  fairy tale) wedding.  Rehearsals. Wedding coordinators. Bridesmaids’ dresses. Hair. Make up. Weather (for outdoor weddings). Cakes. Toasts. First dances. Parent-child dance. Reception food. Music. Stress.  The kind of stress that pits family member against family member (who’s paying for what; who does what; who’s responsible, or supposed to be responsible, for what?); the stress stemming from women planning their “dream day” from when they are little girls.  The whole affair becomes more about the spectacle.

There is empty ritual and there is good ritual. Empty ritual is strictly for show. Done to please others or because others want you to do something. We have no idea why we’re even doing them, so we’re just going through the motions. Good rituals help us to tell and remember the story being ritualized. It is a symbol meant to point us back to what is being symbolized. Since there is power in ritual, it’s important to get the ritual right.

The ceremony is supposed to be about coming together with your community – friends, family, church – to swear before them and God to become husband and wife. The community is both witness and participant (not just gift givers and food consumers), pledging to be a part of the couple’s lives and to support the marriage. The ceremony symbolizes God’s relationship with us, a mystical union. And it’s about celebrating with friends and family as the couple begins a new life together.

“Don’t trust anybody.” –Annie

Going for the spirit of sis-mance, this Judd Apatow production (directed by Paul Feig, Freaks and Geeks) follows his trademark formula: toss in relational bonding through harrowing situation, individual growth/awareness, and over-the-top crass humor.  It’s a little uneven and worse, not consistently funny.  Some scenes and situations felt not only random, but forced, such as the entire situation with the roommates, her baking a cake for herself, even some moments with her mom.  However, it has its share of laughs, and those laughs are huge and hard (there is a scene in a bridal shop that is so wrong, you may be laughing for days afterward).  Megan not only stole the movie in this regard, but possibly scarred me for life with her antics. And it has its share of heart.  It’s a delicate balancing act it attempts to walk—laughs, chick flick, crassness, and heart—but it succeeds.  But serious laughs trumps all.

Jumping the Broom – A Review

Jumping the Broom is the type of movie one wants to like and knows a lot of people will like, but just didn’t enjoy all that much.  It’s the broad kind of African-Amerian family comedy/melodrama rife with many of the stapes of that genre:  high on the melodrama, full of earnestness (or earnestly portrayed characters), a whole lot of redemption, and plenty of music and/or laughs to wash it down with.  Its screenplay is chock full of more conflicts than it can possibly deal with well in two hours.

The movie opens with a hot, up and coming corporate lawyer Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) fresh off of a(nother) humiliating one night stand after which she makes a promise to God that she’ll save her “cookies” until marriage.  And because God is in the bargaining business, her promise comes with the caveat that he has to deliver unto her Mr. Right.  Luckily for this script, God IS a cosmic genie, because she immediately runs into Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso), a man so perfect, I want to marry him.  Five unrealistic, I mean, magical months later, they’re planning their wedding.

All of this just sets up the actual movie, but it also typifies the problem with this movie.  That vow of chastity and this couple’s struggles with it as they developed their relationship would and could have been a movie all by itself.  Instead, it’s just fodder for the real set up.  The movie has two other thematic thrusts about which it is really about:

“Remember who you are.” –Mrs. Watson (Angela Bassett)

1)  Class. It sets itself up as an African-American Romeo and Juliet, with the thing working to keep the two star crossed lovers apart being wealth.  Mrs. Watson (Angela Bassett) is proper, cultured,  lives in Martha’s Vineyard, speak French, and matter-of-factly declare that their ancestors weren’t slaves, but slaveholders.  Jason’s mother, Pam (Loretta Devine), works in the Post Office (fulfills every stereotype we’ve come to expect of such a worker), and spends that majority of the movie spouting about being real and not forgetting where one comes from.

Of course their inevitable collision is ugly.  Few actresses could pull off what Devine was asked to do.  In fact, of the actresses who could pull it off, Devine is on the short list.  But, as written, Pam is a wholly unlikeable character; and realistically, there’s a whole lot of forgiveness all sides would have to be worked through after her antics and comments.

Elizabeth Hunter and Arlene Gibbs’ screenplay could have engaged in serious consideration and debate about whether moving on up (and out) is a betrayal of their race.  Setting up one family as “bougie” and the other as “keeping it real” is an attempt to pigeonhole a group, people who don’t fit perfectly into some predetermined cultural box, and not allow for split cultures and interests, as if no one is allowed to like things not seen as “black”. It points to a level of assimilation, having grown up in the dominant culture. It points to how large our class problem is, often trumping our race problem as we assume that only one group can have middle class values or any kind of middle class culture … as opposed to redefining the boundaries of that culture.  Instead, the movies engages in a “Yee-haw, let’s just laugh at the yokels” spirit.  The only urban working class character able to hold a fork is Jason, the (only) one with a higher education.

“Even a soul mate can really test you.” –Reverend James (T.D. Jakes)

2)  Lies.  Instead of giving the perfect wealthy family some reasonable character flaws, the script decides on the tact of piling on levels of deception to be uncovered as the movie progresses.  Wedding are the perfect vehicle for this, as their attendant stresses not only bring large, diverse groups together but also reveal faultlines.

The thing is, the movie wants to be about the real work of relationships.  It takes its name from a slave tradition of jumping the broom.  Marriage among slaves wasn’t recognized so to declare their marital intent, slaves jumped a broom as their public ceremony.  Marriage is a lifetime commitment. That’s forever for at least one of the partners. Marriage is a sacrifice of oneself for the sake of another. One surrenders their personal rights as they strive to please another (I Cor. 7:32-34). Marriage is risk. There is no guarantee of happiness or fulfillment. One is always vulnerable to heartache or heartbrokenness. No one can hurt you the way, nor as deeply, a spouse can.  In short, marriage is work, marriage is work, marriage is work.

“I can’t fix this.  I need You.  I need Your help, God.” –Jason

Jumping the Broom is often heavy handed, filled with stacks of Real Talk, treads the line between saccharine and heart-warming, and only mildly leavened by a sense of humor (mostly in the form of Willie Earl (Mike Epps).  While declaring itself an uptown-meets-downtown comedy, it’s secondary theme of revealing lies within a family is what undercuts the movie.  Directed under time and budget constraints by television director Salim Akil, the characters are forced to act so ugly (yet earnest!) and be put in situations that you can’t believably gloss over family sitcom style.

Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine are superb, distinguished actresses, yet each practically mugs for the camera with scowls and eye rolls as the “one take only” budget comes through.  Yet the movie is full of movies that could have been.  From Sabrina’s bridesmaid, Blythe (Meagan Good), who like Sabrina, has a knack for hooking up with the wrong men yet connects with the wedding banquet chef (Gary Dourdan); to a student (Romeo Miller) with an eye for Pam’s much older best friend, Shonda (Tasha Smith).  There is a good movie in here, it’s just buried under layers of earnestness.