Guess Who (12A)<br></br>The Wedding Date (12A)<br></br>Chicken Tikka Masala (15)<br></br>Cursed (15)<br></br> Beauty Shop (12A)<br></br>Around the Bend (15)<br></br>Untold Scandal (18)<br></br>The Lizard (nc)

That's just what we need - a multi-racial 'Meet the Parents'
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The Independent Culture

Guess Who (12A) would like us to think it's an update of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? with the races reversed, so that it's now about a black girl bringing home a white boy, much to her family's consternation. In fact, the producers probably haven't even seen the Spencer Tracy/Sidney Poitier classic; the film they've remade here is Meet the Parents, with Ashton Kutcher standing in for Ben Stiller, and Bernie Mac for Robert De Niro.

Still, the racial gags are amusing - when the heroine's sister sees the gangly caucasian in the hall, she yelps, "Oh my God, are we being audited?" - and if Guess Who is no Meet the Parents, it's certainly more substantial and less objectionable than its Focker of a sequel. The film's mistake is to back off from race in the second half. Just when it should be examining the characters' prejudices, it retreats to the non-issue of how trustworthy Kutcher is. It's a comedy about colour that turns yellow.

The Wedding Date (12A) is another comedy that throws away its premise. It stars Debra Messing, from TV's Will & Grace, as a New York singleton who flies to London for her half-sister's wedding. As the Best Man is Messing's ex-fiancé and she doesn't want to be seen without some desirable arm candy, she hires an escort, Dermot Mulroney. You might wonder why a kind, successful and glossily beautiful woman would need to pay someone $6,000 to spend a week in England with her - and not just any England, either, but a sun-drenched, stately-homed England that makes Richard Curtis's films look like Ken Loach's. You might also wonder why Mulroney has chosen to work in the oldest profession, and why these two strangers should fall in love. But The Wedding Date couldn't care less about such questions. Clocking in at a titchy 80 minutes, sans credits, the film jilts Messing and runs off with a subplot involving her sister.

Another wedding comedy, Chicken Tikka Masala (15) is the sixth UK film I've seen in the past few years about a British-Asian defying their family to be with their white lover. It should stand out because the inter-racial relationship is a gay one. But I'm afraid all that sets it apart it is how insultingly witless and appalling it is in every possible way.

Cursed (15) is a werewolf horror-comedy written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven. They're the people who gave the slasher movie a new, postmodern lease of life in Scream, so you'd assume they might do something similarly clever here. They don't. The film, which stars Christina Ricci as a lycanthropic talk-show researcher, is harmless fun if you think of it as a post-Buffy television pilot, but if you're hoping for a brilliant reinvention of the genre, you'll be disappointed.

Beauty Shop (12A) is a spin-off of the Barbershop movies, although it hasn't spun off very far: the only difference is that it's Queen Latifah, not Ice Cube, who's running a hairdressing salon in the 'hood. A lazy, laidback ensemble comedy, it could have been written in the time it takes to get a blow dry.

Michael Caine dies near the start of Around the Bend (15), but not before he's written an annoying only-in-the-movies will. His long-lost son (Christopher Walken), his grandson (Josh Lucas), and his great-grandson must go on a road trip to scatter his ashes in various south-western beauty spots, and - in a Super Size Me-style twist - the will stipulates that they must dine at KFC every night. Whatever your opinion of Colonel Sanders' cuisine, Around the Bend's blend of laboured eccentricity and sentimental hogwash is hard to swallow.

Untold Scandal (18) is the latest of the many film versions of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It's set in 18th-century Korea, but it's remarkably faithful to the original story of a seducer who breaks down the defences of the most virtuous woman around. Not much is gained in translation, but not much is lost, either, and it all looks exquisite, with its meticulously opulent production design emphasising both the decadence of the anti-heroes and the ritualised rigidity of their world.

The Lizard (nc) is an Iranian comedy about a thief who escapes from prison disguised as a Mullah, only to be mistaken for the holy man a small border town has been waiting for. Soon he's improvising sermons about Quentin Tarantino, and learning that headbutting and housebreaking have their place even in a Mullah's work. The Lizard is funnier than the Hollywood movies which were undoubtedly its model, and it comes with the bonus film-snob frisson of having been banned in its home country.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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