Love Jacked reinforces social tropes we could live without

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Starring Shamier Anderson. Rated PG

      Director Alfons Adetuyi comes from a versatile and highly accomplished family of Canadian filmmakers. Cowritten by brother Robert Adetuyi, his second foray into scripted features feels more like an unnecessarily expensive calling card than a full-fledged romantic comedy. The ’60s soul tunes on the soundtrack must have cost as much as Love Jacked’s whole budget.

      Having grown up rich in the fictional, Malibu-like town of South Bay, played by Ontario, spoiled Maya (Happy Together’s Amber Stevens West) is around 30, but is in unusual thrall to her blustering father (U.S. TV veteran Keith David, hamming it up). He’s against her going to South Africa on a spiritual quest, and even more apoplectic when her Cape Town stay results in an instant marriage proposal from a wealthy local player called Mtumbie (Demetrius Gross). When she catches the guy cheating, she’s in a double bind—because proving Daddy wrong is more important than her own happiness.

      Enter Malcolm (Wynonna Earp’s Shamier Anderson), a genial hus­tler who hears her dilemma, and for some reason agrees to impersonate Mtumbie for her already wary family. Naturally enough, he shows up sporting a decidedly inappropriate dashiki and a one-size-fits-all accent—raising the suspicions of her Afrophile uncle (comic Mike Epps, of the Friday movies). He immediately wins over her live-in aunt and grandmother, played by real-life daughter-mother combo Angela and Marla Gibbs. (The latter, a stalwart of The Jeffersons, is now 87.)

      A deal’s a deal, though, and their brilliant plan is to get legally married and then claim that Mtumbie has died in a terrible accident. Because who would look closely at events like that? Happy now, Dad? Things get even thornier when Malcolm’s erstwhile partner (The Book of Negroes’ Lyriq Bent) shows up, with a gun, wanting a cut of whatever is going on.

      Although the movie is set in a parallel universe filled with moneyed black folks, it reinforces social tropes we could easily live without. The young men here are dark-skinned demicriminals while the female lead is as fair as Meghan Markle. Maya’s generic prettiness apparently trumps the fact that she has no interests, skills, or sense of humour—even apart from the fact that her ideas are batshit crazy. On the other hand, costar Anderson manages to maintain both dignity and a comic touch amid this mess, making him a talent to watch.