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Review: Something New

Let’s just say that Something New’s title doesn’t extend to the film’s race-conscious rom-com formula.

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Something New
Photo: Focus Features

There’s nothing particularly novel about a romantic comedy that touches on race, but Something New is so obsessively preoccupied with color—the pigment of people’s skin, the bland or vibrant tint of interior design schemes, the ruby red of women’s toenails, and the stylized cinematographic palette employed in an apparent effort to replicate the hues of Focus Features’s pre-credit logo—that it’ll prove baffling to anyone suffering from chromatic visual deficiencies. Lawyer and soon-to-be partner Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) is a career-driven woman looking for an IBM (Ideal Black Man) while struggling to overcome the “black tax,” which posits that African-Americans have to work twice as hard as their light-skinned compatriots just to earn the same respect and rewards. However, despite her talk with her raunchy girlfriends about needing a good “brother,” Kenya is a socially introverted workaholic whose all-beige home speaks to her emotional reserve, a reticence that’s slowly conquered after she begins falling for Caucasian landscape architect Brian (Simon Baker). Given her middle-class upbringing, her extensive education and her general intelligence, it’s difficult to fathom someone like Kenya acting so freaked-out by the presence of (or her amorous feelings for) a white guy, especially when the stud in question is as dreamy and doting as the imperfection-free Brian. But then again, Sanaa Hamri’s film isn’t after an approximation of real life as much as a storybook lesson about seeing past superficial differences in one’s search for love, a quest scripted by Kriss Turner with an assortment of cute, comedic peripheral characters (lively, supportive single friends; disapproving mom and brother) and unsubtle metaphorical come-ons. “I take hard Earth and make things bloom,” Brian tells Kenya during the courtship phase of their relationship, a claim less likely to elicit aroused feminine panting than to garner a raucous response of “Oh no he did-n’t!” Unfortunately, he did, and continues to do, even as Kenya’s social circle makes him feel like an outsider and a flawless black professional (Blair Underwood) threatens to undermine the couple’s blossoming miscegenational affair. How does it all work out? Let’s just say that Something New’s title—while meant to refer to Kenya’s epiphany concerning the pleasures of white chocolate—doesn’t extend to the film’s race-conscious rom-com formula.

Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Mike Epps, Donald Faison, Felicia Walker, Tanisha Harper, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Katharine Towne, Blair Underwood, Alfre Woodard Director: Sanaa Hamri Screenwriter: Kriss Turner Distributor: Focus Features Running Time: 100 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2006 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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