Something New

One of the best young actresses working today is Sanaa Lathan.  Aside from occasional forays into big dumb action movies (like Aliens vs. Predator), Lathan tends to stick to smaller genre movies like Brown Sugar, Love and Basketball, The Best Man, and Catfish in Black Bean Sauce. Lathan always exudes confidence, intelligence, and sexiness on screen. She is a poised actor who deserves a much higher profile. Something New probably, unfortunately, won't give this to her, but it is another good performance on her resume, albeit in a fairly routine film. It's a lot like Imagine Me & You - Something New takes the standard romantic comedy and adds one twist. This time, it is between a black woman and white man.

Lathan is Kenya McQueen, an intelligent, beautiful, career-driven woman who is looking for her IBM (Ideal Black Man). She has quite a list of what she wants in a man, and none of them include a rugged white landscaper who owns a dog. This man is Brian Kelly (Simon Baker, Land of the Dead, The Ring Two), and the two meet on a disastrous blind date. Well, disastrous for McQueen. They meet again when McQueen reluctantly hires Kelly to landscape the decrepit backyard of her new house. There is clearly an attraction between the two, and Kelly, who likes McQueen not for her color, but her person, pursues her relentlessly. This doesn't fit into McQueen's grand plan for her life. She slowly relents, realizing that McQueen is a decent guy.

Something New, directed by Sanaa Harris and written by Kriss Turner, falls back on the generic romcom storyline, sprinkled with a bit of discussion on race. Once the relationship is real, McQueen thinks she is comfortable, but still balks at any potential public display of them together. She's worried about what others will think, which means she's still uncomfortable on the inside. Of course, something will happen (race related) that will split the couple, and odds are they will get back together by the end. Nevertheless, standing in the way is Mark (Blair Underwood, G, Malibu's Most Wanted), an educated, smart, handsome black man. In her confusion, McQueen runs to him.

Harris and Turner did a good job of creating a three-dimensional character with McQueen, but fails with the men. Mark is too easily identified as slime, and Kelly is so perfect that he becomes boring. All he does is worship her. Good for the ego, but bad for the story. A subplot about a racist client of hers is too underdeveloped and thus feels a bit simplistic. The supporting characters counterbalance these deficiencies nicely. McQueen's friends, all successful black women are wary of the relationship, but in the end, it is all about what makes McQueen happy. They see that Kelly is a good guy, and that he is getting her to loosen up and have fun. But not before some good-natured ribbing on Kelly's whiteness. In the end, Harris realizes that this is a romantic comedy. She brings up the serious racial issue, but dances around it. There is enough of it to make people think, but not enough to turn this into a drama.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 39 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual references.

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