Lands of Confusion


Kingdom Come, a seriocomic smorgasbord of African American star spotting (look, Toni Braxton!), demands high tolerance for low comedy. Have you heard the one about the widow (Whoopi Goldberg) who tried to get “Mean and Surly” inscribed on her husband’s gravestone? Or how about the incontinent reverend (Cedric the Entertainer) who talks like Elmer Fudd and literally busts loose mid-eulogy? Barely developed from an ensemble play, the movie is a shotgun marriage of gross-outs and family clashes. In observing one clan’s fractured response to the death and funeral of its gruff patriarch, Kingdom Come’s unevenness is checked by its stars. First and main is LL Cool J, who starts the movie as an exasperated tightass and soon takes over both kin and film with aplomb. Goldberg is another asset, incarnating Raynelle, the aforementioned widow, as a plaintive matriarch who resigned herself to her husband’s lifelong disregard some time ago.

Though scattershot, director Doug McHenry doesn’t flounder any worse than, say, mid-period Altman. McHenry, who framed another tattered family in Jason’s Lyric, throws a lot at a viewer and some of it sticks. As the weirdest relative, Jada Pinkett Smith nails a certain down-home type as a cuckolded wife, morphing from an Afro-puffed, tangerine-lipsticked harpy to an elegantly nauseated Cruella De Vil. These traits would probably have fit Vivica A. Fox better, but Fox is, alas, present in a straight role that tethers her knack for bawdy, caricaturish humor.

As for the school of hard knocks, States of Control has got it all: jejune aphorisms (“Maybe sex is a curse”), inchoate plot, and chipper actors to mouth it all. Straight-facedly presenting itself as a stimulating trek deep into the angst of an alienated woman, States takes its heroine, Lisa (Jennifer Van Dyck), to the neurotic brink. Director Zack Winestine studied for the clergy, worked with Kubrick on The Shining, digs Kieslowski—and wants you to know all of it with each epileptic emotional lurch.