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Kingdom Come

Starring LL Cool J, Vivica A. Fox, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cedric The Entertainer, Toni Braxton and Whoopi Goldberg
Screenplay by David Dean Botrell & Jessie Jones
Based on their play "Dearly Departed"
Directed by Doug McHenry

IN SHORT: Death brings out the Best and Worst in families. A comedy with conflict and warm fuzzies. [Rated PG for thematic elements, language and sensuality. 95 minutes]

And while the four color fanboys out there can fantasize an Elseworlds story in which Whoopi Goldberg wears the big red 'S', this is not an adaptation of the Mark Waid/Alex Ross Kingdom Come graphic novel.

What it is is a cross-all-boundaries fractious family comedy which wraps up with a small dose of warm fuzzies, just as you'd expect. We try not to see comedies in private rooms stocked with other critics, because they are notoriously tight lipped. We had no choice with Kingdom Come and are guessing the chuckles that escaped other sealed lips would probably be much bigger laughs if you watched the film in a packed house. Unlike The Brothers of a pair of weeks back, there is no slang in the language of Kingdom Come to confuse this paleface lost in the linguistic sense. And that's the last reference we'll make to demographics because this family comedy has something that everybody can get a chuckle out of.

What will a man do to get out of going to Church? Bud, after receiving a chastising letter from his sister Marguerite (Loretta Devine, who promises a visit next Sunday for a day of prayer and reflection) keels over from a stroke. The joke's on him, 'cuz his cold dead body is still going to make the trip to the house with the pointy tower. Bud's son Junior (Anthony Anderson) is 33, broke, unemployed, with three demonspawn kidlets and a shrew of a wife Charisse (Jada Pinkett Smith). Charisse found an earring in the car. Not hers. Smith's performance redefines the expression "hell on earth" and her character has pushed her suffering hubby almost to the limit.

Other son Ray Bud (LL Cool J), a recovering alcoholic, is the only "stable" male in the family. He's got a job. He's got a good wife, Lucille (Vivica A. Fox) and they share the fast fading dream of raising a family as Lucille hasn't managed to carry a pregnancy to term. The stress of his father's death, in that he's the only one with the money to pay for the burial, pushes Ray Bud back towards the bottle and a into battle with his brother. In the middle of it all, like the eye of a hurricane or the center of a storm, sits mama Ranelle Slocumb (Whoopi Goldberg) and her still at home daughter, Delightful (Masasa), who never utters a word.

We haven't forgotten straitlaced Marguerite's ne'er do well son, Royce (Darius McCrary) who believes that the best work is the kind you get paid not to do.

Kingdom Come is a family story that relies on the personalities of its characters to get the humor and sadness across. Nearly everyone knows what it is like to be out of work or short of funds. That's nothing specific to any racial class or location in the country. Even the one "wealthy" character in the play, cousin Juanita (Toni Braxton) who married the lawyer that Charisse "could have" isn't necessarily happy. Braxton makes a good screen debut but the accolades from this keyboard go to LL Cool J who is finally manifesting some good acting chops. Jada Pinkett Smith gets to chew the scenery and steals most every scene she is in. Shrews will do that and her character is almost a caricature. Very funny work.

African-Americans, who are the target audience, do not get a lot of movies with positive representations of their race aimed at them. They will patronize this film. Here's our point: There is nothing in this film that should categorize it as a "black" film. Kingdom Come is a gentle comedy and a gentle family story as well. Its characters are well written, far beyond the unwatchable African-American stereotypes on UPN. Whether seen on screen or on tape, it is an enjoyable flick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Kingdom Come, he would have paid . . .


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