Kingdom Come

Directed by Doug McHenry
Starring: LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett, Vivica A. Fox, Loretta Devine, Anthony Anderson, Darius McCrary, and Whoopi Goldberg.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, language and sensuality.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <>
April 24, 2001

This review is a love letter to Whoopi Goldberg, Anthony Anderson, Loretta Divine, and Darius McCrary for their honest and wonderful performances. It is also a thank-you letter to Doug McHenry for making a film that -- despite its faults -- is funny, sincere, and non-self-conscious.

This film was disliked by several other Web reviewers particularly because the humor is dark and the movie contains a lot of side plots and problems that are quickly solved. This did not bother me at all. Only once during the film did I scowl (I disliked the extended fart and diarrhea joke during the funeral). The fast pace and easy answers fit perfectly with the film's tone, which is irreverent yet completely honest and sincere. It's been a long time since I've seen a comedy that wasn't winking and nudging the audience or a drama that wasn't indicating tension with heavy pauses and music. Kingdom Come (with the exception of the fart funeral, which should be ripped from this film) doesn't pander for laughs or tears. It just presents its characters and situations and lets the audience decide whether to laugh or cry. I laughed a whole lot and got misty as well.

Whoopi Goldberg plays Mamma Ray, a woman whose "mean and surly" husband, Bud, drops dead at the dinner table. Her large and dysfunctional family gathers for his funeral and brings all their personal baggage with them. Eldest Son Ray Bud (LL Cool J) never liked his dad and is angry at his brother Junior (Anthony Anderson) for being a dreaming bum. Ray Bud's wife Lucille hides her unhappiness behind pills and soothing words. Junior's marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Charise (Jada Pinkett), is falling apart due to poverty, infidelity, and general unpleasantness. Bud's sister Marguerite, a bible-thumping Baptist, comes to comfort Mamma Ray (Loretta Devine) but instead fights with her own "demon" son, Royce (Darius McCrary). All problems may be predictably solved in the end but watching the destruction and salvation of the all these relationships endlessly entertained me.

What lifted this movie above the level of sitcom was the performances, particularly Whoopi Goldberg's. She is divine in this film, portraying a strong woman of few words but great strength and dignity. Anthony Anderson is also delightful and shows a greater range than he has in Exit Wounds or Romeo Must Die. His scene where he explains why he cheated on his wife is a wonderful moment of understated sadness. It is such moments balanced with his usual high-energy comedy that makes his performance so strong. Loretta Devine and Darius McCrary work together extremely well as bickering mother and son and provide the biggest laughs of the film. McCrary also has some nice serious moments and manages to flush out a pretty standard bad-boy-with-a-heart role. All the performances were strong and never flinched from honestly showing the character or situation. There are some really ugly people and circumstances in the film and they are not sugar-coated which makes them all the more funny or frightening.

Kingdom Come doesn't break any new ground in filmmaking, but it is darkly funny, simple, and not pushy, which in this day of over-hyped hoopla is a rare and wonderful thing.

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Kingdom Come (2001/I)

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