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"Something New" Movie Review

It Doesn't Reinvent the Wheel, Just Adds a New Spoke

By

Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker star in

Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker in "Something New."

© Focus Features
The pitfalls and positive aspects of interracial relationships are addressed with style, wit and humor in “Something New,” a romantic comedy from first time feature film director Sanaa Hamri and writer Kriss Turner.

“Something New” doesn’t exactly live up to its title however it is an intelligent, conversation-provoking take on a topic that’s been addressed before in films of this genre. While most previous efforts put the emphasis on the comedy aspect of ‘romantic comedy,’ “Something New” takes a different approach by emphasizing the relationship angle and letting the comedy take a back seat. What unfolds in “Something New” is something deeper and more real than what audiences are used to being fed when the topic of interracial dating is brought up in films.

Sanaa Lathan stars as Kenya Denise McQueen, a workaholic with an eye on a partnership at a big-time LA accounting firm. Kenya may be a wiz with numbers but she’s definitely not a wiz at handling relationships. The film opens with Kenya and her three closest friends lamenting the fact they’re still single. Sitting around a table dateless on Valentine’s Day, the women commiserate with each other over the fact 42.4% of all black women will never marry.

Vowing to lower their standards – or at least make themselves more accessible – Kenya and her cohorts take up a new mantra, “Let go, let flow.” Ready to take a chance and be more open to love, Kenya agrees to trash her mental check-list for suitable mates. But when a coworker sets her up on a date with the sexy and newly single Brian (Simon Baker), she immediately holds up a stop sign. Kenya never expected her blind date to be white and isn’t ready to let that particular box on her check-list go unmarked.

Circumstances throw Brian and Kenya together again, even as Kenya does everything she can to distance herself from the handsome landscape architect. One thing leads to another and at the prompting of mutual acquaintances, Brian’s hired to design and landscape Kenya’s backyard.

As the two spend time together going over the plans, the overly uptight Kenya starts to loosen up a little. Proving himself adept at multi-tasking, Brian brings Kenya’s backyard to life and helps the tightly wound Kenya start to relax. Soon both the yard and Kenya begin to blossom under Brian’s careful nurturing. However Kenya’s friends and family aren’t supportive of her choice to date her white gardener and Kenya has to overcome her own misgivings about dating outside of her race.

“Something New” benefits from strong chemistry between the two leads, Lathan and Baker. Their intimate scenes are tasteful yet extremely sexy, and there’s a real naturalness to their relationship onscreen. And even when the plot gets a little iffy, Lathan and Baker save the day with their compelling performances.

The film also features Earl Billings and Alfre Woodard as Mr. and Mrs. McQueen, Kenya’s upper-crust, highly accomplished parents. Billings and Lathan share an incredibly touching father and daughter scene while Woodard, as the film’s main antagonist, delivers cringe-inducing lines. It’s a good cop/bad cop thing the parents have going on and it only works because their screen time is limited. The amount of time spent with the parents is just right, any more and they would have overstayed their welcome.

While some of the dialogue is a little preachy, for the most part “Something New” avoids taking sides and instead lets the romantic relationship play itself out in an honest fashion. “Something New’s” a date movie with a moral but one that doesn’t knock you senseless trying to make the message stick.

GRADE: B

"Something New" was directed by Sanaa Hamri and is rated PG-13 for sexual references.

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