Published Apr 01, 2001Playwrights David Dean Bottrell and Jessie Jones have adapted their successful play "Dearly Departed" for the screen in the shape of "Kingdom Come." Unfortunately, the transition from stage to screen is not entirely smooth. The story of the dysfunctional Slocomb family who are forced to gather together after the sudden death of the family patriarch tries to combine elements of over-the-top physical comedy with heartfelt family drama. The result is a schizophrenic film, in which half of the characters are nuanced and engaging while the other half are broad caricatures whose ongoing hysteria quickly becomes grating, and scenes alternate jarringly between being played for laughs and for tears.
The plot centres around Ray Bud (LL Cool J) and his wife Lucille (Vivaca A. Fox), who quickly begin to cave under the strain of dealing with the father's death, being responsible for all the arrangements, and trying to please the difficult relatives who have descended upon their house. Among those driving Ray Bud to drink are his bumbling brother Junior (Anthony Anderson) who is in the throes of a marital crisis with his brash wife Charissa (Jada Pinkett Smith), and his scripture spouting aunt Marguerite (Loretta Devine) who is continuously preaching to her hoodlum son Royce (Darius McCrary).
The cast combines some big stars of the music, comedy, and acting worlds, with such diverse talents as Toni Braxton, Cedric the Entertainer, and Whoopi Goldberg dotting the supporting ensemble. The best performances of the film come from LL Cool J playing Ray Bud as a man about to crack while trying to hold everything together, Vivaca A. Fox as the peacekeeping Lucille, and (somewhat surprisingly) Whoopi Goldberg in a very subtle performance as the family matriarch trying to come to grips with the death of a husband whom she didn't particularly like. On the other end of the spectrum are the performances of Jada Pinkett Smith and Loretta Devine, whose characters both spend the whole film yelling incessantly as if engaged in some secret pact to see who can be the most annoying.
The script is hit and miss; for every decent joke there is at least one profoundly unfunny one, and the dramatic moments range from subtly moving to hokey and overwritten (the note on which the film unfortunately decides to end). The direction is just as unfocused, with an odd pacing that belies much of the script's potential for comedic build-up. Although there are some worthwhile aspects of "Kingdom Come," the disparate elements just don't come together to form the kind of comedic drama that it wants to be.