"You almost don’t mind that it fails to live up to its title."
“Something New” moves in such a predictable manner that it makes the Old Faithful geyser seem irregular in comparison.Screenwriter Kriss Turner (from “Everybody Hates Chris”) follows the romantic comedy template so closely that at times “Something New” feels more like it was generated than written. Conversely, she also pens lots of snappy banter and creates lead characters whose quest of happiness is sometimes as compelling as it is unoriginal.
Turner and director Sanaa Hamri (a veteran of Prince videos) do deserve credit for focusing on an African American female lead character and for treating her quest for love in challenging places with an appealing earnestness.
Sanaa Latham (“Love and Basketball”) stars as a Type-A banker named Kenya, whose drive for success leaves her with little time for finding a mate. After a long and fruitless relationship, she meets a blind date only to discover that he’s a white landscape architect named Brian (Simon Baker from “Land of the Dead“), who makes his living working for her yuppie friends.
Brian’s laid-back, New Age-influenced lifestyle soon wins over the workaholic Kenya. Her black friends are a different matter. Her brother Nelson (Donald Faison) calls Brian “the Help,” and others take a while to warm to him.
Guessing how all this will play out doesn’t take any effort, but every now and then Turner and Hamri come up with several nice touches that keep “Something New” from becoming “Something Stale.” For example, it’s refreshing that Brian’s romantic rival (nicely played by Blair Underwood) is not a cad but a successful fellow who has remained a decent person.
The supporting cast are occasionally stuck with stock characters like a friend of Kenya’s who can’t seem to resist married men or Kenya’s bossy mother (played with dignity by Alfre Woodard). On the plus side, the sincerity of “Something New” is infinitely more appealing than the smugness that ran through “Guess Who,” the recent remake of Stanley Kramer’s pompous 1967 “message” movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
Interracial couples still have to deal with prejudices, so it’s refreshing to see them acknowledged instead of pretending they don’t exist. It also doesn’t hurt that Latham and Baker make an appealing on-screen couple, so their eventual union feels more convincing than preordained.It’s doubtful that anyone would buy a ticket for this film if it didn’t end as expected, but “Something New” might have been more engaging if Turner had written plotlines as energetic as her dialogue. Before this movie who knew that the late-great funkster Rick James could be more than an excuse for Dave Chapelle’s wisecracks?