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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Retro Review: Made In America (1993)

Made In America
Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Danson, Nia Long, Will Smith, Jennifer Tilly 
Genre: Comedy 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $104 million 

Plot: A young African American woman discovers her father was a sperm donor, and if that wasn't bad enough, he's White 

'Fade(d) In America'

Released back in the early 1990s, Made In America is a racial comedy misfire of epic proportions that at times, it is the type of film that ought to have something to say, from a cultural aspect. But instead, it turns out to be a completely not very amusing, and at times, a rather perplexing and bloated mess.

Sarah Matthews (Whoopi Goldberg) is the mother to Zora, who after paying a visit to a sperm bank, finds out the father is Hal Jackson (Ted Danson): a White used car salesman and matters are further complicated when he becomes more involved with their lives. As the movie progresses further, Hal later develops feelings for Sarah, as well as he starts to get a better understanding of her daughter. Yet as good as this all sounds, the actual film itself is an utter disappointment.

This film was produced by Michael Douglas alongside 2 other producers and also stars Nia Long and Will Smith who both later starred as lovebirds on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Will here is basically reenacting his role from the NBC sitcom - only he dons a pair of glasses to make him look dorky. Ted Danson is the weak link and for me just looked out of his league as the cowboy dad. In 1993, after hits with Three Men & A Baby and its sequel, A Little Lady during the 1980s and 1990, he wanted to further establish his movie career. Yet his age, lack of major roles, later on, ensured he would turn his attention to TV, which he did so via sitcom Becker and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Goldberg, on the other hand, tries her utmost best and does what she can to liven up proceedings. 

The screwball comedy moments just doesn't work and the title of the movie doesn't elude to anything in relation to the actual plot. Made in America is a racially charged comedy that is problematically devoid of romance and comedy, & the chemistry between Danson and Goldberg is just, off. Despite their efforts, both actors cannot raise themselves above the poor and hackneyed material and the further the story progressed, the less funny and more unwatchable it became.

The title Made In America doesn't allude to or relate to the main plot and is a screwball comedy about race and ethnicity and a case of so-called mistaken identity, without following any of the rom-com/comedy conventions through beyond the father being a white guy thing. This should have been the ideal opportunity to present a social commentary on race and bi-racial relationships, yet what we get are situations and scenarios that do not lend themselves to the plot and really of which the film could have done without.

The other issue is that the tone of the movie switches up so many times that there is no continuity or consistency. One minute it's a sitcom, the next it becomes serious, it's as if it doesn't know what it wants to be. There is a scene where Sarah walks into a car showroom and Wild West music is playing in the background. If that constitutes as being funny, then well, they are not trying hard enough.

Final Verdict

Made In America is a perplexing film and with a premise that could only exist back in 1993 that doubles up as a poor excuse of a comedy: by not delving into the social context of race & without any real and good gags to speak of, it's therefore funny and contradictory that this film is billed as a comedy.

Because it is far from one. 


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