Family tragedy turns into ensemble comedy

It is rare to find a movie that is both emotionally draining and riddled with sharp and intelligent humor. But such a feat is possible by pulling together a superb group of actors to tackle a clever script. Such is the case with Kingdom Come.

In Kingdom Come director Doug McHenry (House Party 2) uses a group of prominent actors, including Whoopi Goldberg, LL Cool J and Jada Pinket Smith, to tell the story of a family’s trials and tribulations as members reunite and try to bury the family’s patriarch.

Immediately after father Woodrow “Bud” Slocumb suffers a fatal stroke at the kitchen table, mother Raynelle Slocumb (Goldberg) calls on her family to gather during a three-day weekend and lay her husband to rest. She soon finds herself surrounded by bickering and dysfunctional family members who have many issues to straighten out. The oldest son, Ray Bud Slocumb (LL Cool J), must carry the financial burden of the funeral. He also feels he must make a final connection with his father, a man who he never quite knew. His wife, Lucille (Vivica A. Fox), is the family peacekeeper who has suffered several miscarriages.

Youngest son Junior (Anthony Anderson) is a failure at business and an unfaithful husband, frustrating his irritable and over-the-top wife, Charisse (Pinkett Smith). Then there’s Aunt Marguerite (Loretta Devine, Waiting to Exhale) who constantly recites scripture to save her son, Royce (Darius McCrar), whose ultimate goal in life is to get married and live on welfare. Juanita (Toni Braxton) is a family relative who has struck it rich and does nothing but show off.

Each member of the Slocumb family must come to terms with Woodrow’s loss. Family predicaments develop throughout the movie, and the diverse assortment of conventional relatives makes for an emotional journey involving love, loss and forgiveness.

With its stellar ensemble of actors, Kingdom Come (Fox Searchlight) brings many things to the table. Goldberg, in particular, delivers insight, humor and humanity to her matriarch role. Although she often takes on comedic roles, Goldberg seems to bring much-needed peace to her chaotic family. LL Cool J delivers a surprise performance in the film. His character carries the family throughout the movie – financially and emotionally. Although Ray Bud was never close to his father, he is successful at convincing the audience that love can carry a family past any obstacle. Braxton’s feature film debut is an impressive one.

While the acting in the film is excellent, the plot does have a few problems. The audience never gets to know the patriarch. Although there is much said about him, he immediately dies in the first scene. If the audience had seen him interact with Raynelle and maybe others in the family, perhaps the audience would sympathize more with the characters. Some parts of the movie also seem to drag as characters become a little predictable.

Overall Kingdom Come audiences should prepare for an emotional ride. Although the film centers on a funeral, the family members offer an eclectic mixture that will appeal to everyone who has ever been a part of a family. This film will surely be a pleasant surprise.

Kingdom Come is now in theatres.

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