Who Made the Potatoe Salad? (2006)
Who Made the Potatoe Salad? (2006)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: November 7th, 2006 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Damon “Coke” Daniels Actors: Jaleel White, Jennia Fredrique, Clifton Powell, Ella Joyce, Daphne Bloomer, DeRay Davis, Eddie Griffin, Tommy Tiny Lister, Terrance Thomas, Jossie Thacker

 


 

M

ichael (Jaleel White of “Family Matters” fame) is a blundering, maladroit San Diego police officer, who proposes to his girlfriend Ashley (Jennia Fredrique), only to discover the hard way how burdensome it can be to meet the in-laws. Ashley’s incalculably dysfunctional L.A. family is led by her Black Panther father, Jake Jenkins (Clifton Powell), who, quite naturally, has to make life difficult for Michael. And June Bug (DeRay Davis) is the pot-smoking, mail-order-bride-ordering, gangster brother, while Ray Ray (Mark Chalant Phifer) and Mookie (Daphne Bloomer) are the intrusive friends of the family who are perpetually on probation.

Eddie Griffin provides a recognizable turn as Malik, a convict who, though serving four consecutive life sentences, has always been Mr. Jenkins’ first choice for Ashley. The film is additionally peppered with other eccentric characters, including Monster (Tommy Lister), an enormous ruffian also seeking the affections of Ashley, and the Browns, the parents of Mrs. Jenkins (Ella Joyce), who despise their own son-in-law (generating the only interesting notion of circular behavior arcs or inherited intolerance). In the tradition of predictable comedy love stories, Michael momentarily loses Ashley due to a botched attempt to win the approval of the family, and must then decide whether or not his fiancee is really worth all the trouble.

Jaleel’s cop character doesn’t eat pork, which leads to relentless “pig” and doughnut jokes. Plus, since all of the Jenkins family members have had run-ins with the law at some point, the situation is decidedly against Michael as a representative of a detested profession. Where “Meet the Parents” used humorous yet realistic scenarios fused with obvious exaggeration and sarcasm, “Who Made the Potatoe Salad?” veers toward a darker, more serious blend of comedy. Oftentimes, the happenings escalate into heated arguments that grow so severe that the humorous hyperbole is all but lost. As an example, during an early talk with his eventual son-in-law, Jake casually mentions over drinks that he would rather kill Michael than let him be with his daughter. Unfortunately, through the deadpan seriousness of this interaction – and almost every other comparable encounter – the audience is essentially deterred from laughing.

An incredible amount of profanity is used by every member of the family, including the elderly Browns. Where occasional cursing can be hysterical, especially when uttered by prim-and-proper old folks, the characters are so despicable that both humor and sympathy are completely tossed out. Mrs. Jenkins is the mediator to all the bickering and infighting, but fails to do anything amusing herself, further lessening the impact of the jokes. Attempting to sustain itself with constant foul language, loud-mouthed quarreling, and vulgar slapstick, the film quickly falls apart, unable to create any relation or affinity to the irrational group. And although Michael and Ashley are the only two normal people in the bunch, their indifferent reactions similarly manage to be incompatible and off-putting.

Doused with pathetic characters and blanketed by the humorless concoction of angry debates and bawdy quips, “Who Made the Potatoe Salad?” leaves a lot to be desired in the comedy department. It’s also unable to fall back on the relatively high production values, a few interesting editing techniques, or its soundtrack, which is curiously devoid of catchiness. Even as an urban version of “Meet the Parents” – marketed to capitalize on a universal idea and inherent, uncomfortable humor – this project can’t muster fresh dialogue or routines that aren’t terribly stereotypical and lifeless.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10