Something New

Bomb Rating: 

Even my eyebrows go up sometimes when I see a name preceded by the words "The directing debut of..." Such an announcement comes with certain expectations, which is why I figured director Sanaa Hamri had some really impressive credits, like maybe she was the person who helped Francis Ford Coppola polish up that final cut of "The Godfather" or was the real genius behind "Pulp Fiction." So what are Hamri's credits? Videos. She's directed about 40 videos, most notably several featuring Mariah Carey. In the zoo that is the music world, that's like following around the incontinent elephant with a spoon.

Although "Something New" paints itself as intellectual, tasteful, adult entertainment, it's surprising how little it does to mask that it's just a modernized "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Perhaps Hamri missed last year's "Guess Who" or maybe she merely wanted to visit the same story without inflicting Ashton Kutcher on the world. Honestly, if I knew for certain it was the latter, I would gladly give her one less bomb.

The story focuses on Kenya (Sanaa Lathan), a successful, educated, professional woman who has everything but love and a good sense of self. She works too much and uses it as an excuse to avoid dating. She and her friends sit around like an alternate version of "Sex and the City" and try to figure out the reason why successful black women have so much trouble finding successful black men to marry. Personally, I believe that Oprah lures them into her cave with promises of world domination, but that's a guess.

Subbing for Kutcher is Brian (Simon Baker), the most perfect white thing since Wonder Bread. Unfortunately, he's a landscape architect, which this movie characterizes as a glorified gardener. So not only does Kenya have the race issue to cope with, she has to reconcile with dating way under her social class and justify both to her brother (Donald Faison) and parents (Earl Billings, Alfre Woodard).

Were I a black man (and I certainly have the hipness to pull it off), I wouldn't be too happy with what this film is saying, as I'm sure there are more than enough educated, loving black men in the real world to fill Kenya's social calendar several times over. It's Brian that wins her heart because he's understanding, considerate and treats her like an equal. Hamri gives us a brief taste of the best the black male world can do in Mark Harper (Blair Underwood), who appears perfect until an egotistic meltdown in which he confirms Kenya's main fear about black men: smart, successful women scare them. Since this is known as the "Hillary Clinton Effect," it's not exactly a race issue.

"Something New" feels like something really old.

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