Essentially a lightweight “Meet the Parents” which uses somewhat dated interracial humour rather than the accidental cynicism of the Focker films, ‘Guess’ nevertheless is above your average studio comedy. This is mostly thanks to its two leads whose differences play off each other quite well and who, after several nauseating recent attempts at comedy, finally get to play more to their strengths even if they don’t live up to anywhere near their full potential.
The concept is fairly breezy and despite assorted half-hearted attempts at trying to be a social commentary, there’s not even a hint of subtlety or subtext in the gags here. It all goes for either the easy laugh or something a little edgier although in the later case that rarely works. Of note is a dinner sequence where Mac forces Kutcher to tell politically incorrect black jokes for example which, if it weren’t for Mac’s relentlessness, would be disastrously awkward.
Mac with his great facial expressions showing off an ever increasing but controlled fury, and Kutcher with his eager to please attitude and knack for physical comedy are the key to this and they share a good chemistry. Zoe Saldana and Judith Scott as the duo’s female counterparts provide excellent support. Other roles like the grandfather and younger sister are more one-note jokes thank actual characters but are fun nonetheless.
Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan delivers better work than usual and keeps the pacing flowing well throughout despite some comic sequences which either fail to generate a laugh or are quite stilted in nature. The last act in particular suffers from some far too quick turnarounds and an all too drawn out feel that’s out of place considering the quite tight first hour. Most of the disappointment though comes from the script which could’ve walked the line of using racial tolerance issues for humour if it were smarter. Instead it lets down everyone including us and the stars.
As much as Mac & Kutcher work well together, both feel restrained by the writing and one would’ve hoped that something more biting, challenging and ultimately smarter and funnier could’ve been yielded from this. Instead what’s here is an enjoyable albeit forgettable little comedy with two recent comic talents going at it better than they usually do. Moderately enjoyable.