The most shocking revelation in “Something New” might be the fact that the story’s heroine has (spoiler warning!) a weave. We thus watch her drastic transformation from a beautiful, long-haired black woman to, well, a beautiful, curly-haired black woman. Puzzlingly, the vapid film delights in presenting such utterly bland surprises.
“Something New” is a halfhearted attempt by first-time film director Sanaa Hamri to relate the story of Kenya (Sanaa Lathan, “Alien Vs. Predator”), a successful-yet-love-starved lawyer tricked into going on a blind date with a nitty-gritty white landscaper named Brian (Simon Baker, “The Ring Two”). Initially turned off by his race, sparks (or rather woodchips) begin to fly when he gets hired to landscape her new home. After some of the usual plot contrivances, the two must decide if they can overcome their differences or if she is really meant to be with an “IBM” (ideal black man) – a wealthy lawyer who dotes on her in that creepy, caretaker sort of way.
Ironically promising a “new” take on relationships, rehashed race issues constitute the film’s convenient epicenter of conflict. Take Kenya’s labeling of her law firm associates as “those white boys at the plantation.” For an interracial couple, this serves as the commonplace argument fodder that jeopardizes their relationship.
Clunky metaphors also make a fierce appearance, and seem to battle each other for depth as barren gardens begin to bloom and beige walls are painted pretty colors with the entrance of love into Kenya’s tragically deprived life. Similarly unoriginal, the other characters consist of a version of the “Sex and the City” ladies as her support system, with a younger brother thrown in for comic relief (Donald Faison, TV’s “Scrubs”).
The one shining exception to these cardboard archetypes is Kenya’s exemplary father, a wise and loving doctor. He understands her struggles and displays witty tact up against her stuffy mother that ultimately translates into refreshingly genuine onscreen affection.
Yet despite this one bright spot, the generally awkward plot is further troubled by a lack of music and some shaky camera shots. The movie plays out like an affected documentary when, at the climax, Kenya is desperately searching for Brian. As it turns out, no, he is not dead, missing or lying mutilated in a ditch, but rather just chilling with his dog at the local flower shop.
“Something New” strives to preach the progressive values of colorblindness. But then, Kenya’s brother demonstrates that driving a Jaguar is all you need to impress a bevy of brainless beauties. Truly timeless advice from the forward-thinking film: When it comes to winning that special Valentine’s heart, all you really need is some solid horsepower and shiny rims.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
At the Showcase and Quality 16