“Love Jacked” is built on maybe the silliest premise to ever prop up a romantic comedy. A young art school graduate, rebelling against her hardware store-owner Dad’s bossiness, takes a trip to Africa, falls for Mr. Wrong and tells the family they’re to be married.
But she catches the guy cheating before she gets on the plane for home. And rather than admit her cupidity to her overbearing Dad, she relies on a stranger who offers to pose as that fiance, African accent and all.
But here’s what works. The scene where Maya (Amber Stevens, who also played a Maya in “22 Jump Street”) introduces her (fake) intended to the family has her as shocked at his appearance and voice as they are.
“What’s with the ROBES?” she hisses.
“Haven’t you seen ‘Coming to America?'”
There are a couple of cute bits like this in this leaden comedy, a film that could use a lot of campy “Imitation African” stuff like that for our con-man groom (Shamier Anderson), more “tests” by Maya’s Afro-centric uncle (Mike Epps, always good for a laugh) and more bluster from Maya’s skeptical dad, the master-blusterer Keith David.
The set up is, as I said, ridiculous, the “Southern California” settings of this Canadian/South African production are plainly South African, the situations rote and the performers at a loss to overcome all this.
Malcolm (Anderson) has just busted up with his fellow pool hustler/conman, Tyrell (Lyriq Bent). It’s a violent parting of the ways, as Malcolm has a heart that keeps him from stealing from the poor, and Tyrell has a gun and a grudge.
Enter Maya, with her fiance predicament. Maybe they can help each other out? How hard can it be?
“Where do you think the ‘African’ in African AMERICAN came from?”
They plot and scheme, the hapless family goes along, Uncle Rudy (Epps) is misplaces for FAR too long, and Tyrell’s got to make a return appearance to muck things up, as if they weren’t mucked up before.
We can buy a romance warming up between these two, but not based on what this fiasco delivers.
MPAA Rating: PG-13, for some suggestive material.
Cast: Amanda Stevens, Shamier Anderson, Keith David, Marla Gibbs, Lyriq Bent, Demetrius Grosse and Mike Epps
Running time: 1:38