Something New

on February 03, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
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Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan) is a Los Angeles career woman who's got everything going for her -- except, of course, the love of a man. "Something New" is one of those successful woman-in-search-of- husband movies of the sort made popular in the '80s, and whose themes have lingered well into the present "Sex and the City"-driven zeitgeist of the '00s. As if this isn't an antiquated enough premise for a contemporary film, "Something New" insinuates a banal race-related subtext into its storyline that is not only in bad taste, but, frankly, full of the sort of politically correct racism that allows black people to say things to and about white people that could never be expressed in the reverse. This measure of tolerance for the intolerant in "Something New" is both subtle and overt, and begins with the lead character's name. Kenya is a lovely appellation that one suspects is had by many lovely people, most if not all of whom are African-American. This is a deliberate character marker as used in the film, and it's also the sort of obvious storytelling device found in mediocre sitcoms of the sort screenwriter Kriss Turner is noted for producing. It's as if the filmmakers weren't sure the audience would understand that Ms. Lathan (and thus her character) is black, or at least how important that fact is important to the plot of the film.

There are scenes in this movie in which the object Kenya's affections, a white man named Brian ("Land of the Dead's" Simon Baker), is verbally lynched by a parade of African-American supporting characters, including Kenya's brother (Donald Faison of TV's "Scrubs"), who refers to Brian, a landscape architect, as "the help," and a male friend played by the extremely funny Mike Epps ("Roll Bounce"), who jokingly dubs Brian "the night light." Meanwhile, a chorus of female friends (Wendy Raquel Robinson, Golden Brooks, Taraji P. Henson) all but commission a cure for Girlfriend's jungle fever, said cure being a handsome eligible black bachelor played by Blair Underwood with affable suave. This is all meant to be funny or romantic. But it's not so much a soulmate that Kenya wants as it is an "appropriate partner," of the right complexion and status, which is a wholly indefensible position in this day and age, and is certainly neither romantic nor funny. Starring Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Mike Epps, Donald Faison, Blair Underwood, Wendy Raquel Robinson and Alfred Woodard. Directed by Sanaa Hamri. Written by Kriss Turner. Produced by Stephanie Allain. A Focus release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG- 13 for sexual references. Running time: 100 min

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