Review: ‘Reunion’

Winning few points for subtlety but scoring nonetheless, Sheila Norman's pic overlays a churchy, inspirational African-American sensibility on an Altmanesque big ensemble seriocomedy blueprint. It has a big-hearted, upbeat overall message that will delight many viewers, who most likely will be watching on cable TV.

Winning few points for subtlety but scoring nonetheless, Sheila Norman’s “Reunion” overlays a churchy, inspirational African-American sensibility on an Altmanesque big ensemble seriocomedy blueprint. Chronicling all tempests and reconciliations during an extended-family reunion, it has numerous maudlin and caricatured aspects but also delivers a big-hearted, upbeat overall message that will delight many viewers, who most likely will be watching on cable TV.

At the request of ancient auntie Clara (Maxine Hayden), this year’s Smith Family Reunion also welcomes the related-by-marriage Wesson family, prompting considerable snootiness from certain Smiths. Nonetheless, this weekend at a Palm Springs resort hotel provokes much intermingling, from budding teen romances to marital bust-ups. At the crux are difficult coming-to-terms between two estranged adult sisters (Carolyn Owens, Trisha Mann), one of whom needs the other’s kidney to survive, and younger half-sisters (Dominiqua Alexis, Micah Marie) who’ve never met due to their parents’ divorce. Despite crudely melodramatic flashbacks, broad portrayal of the bitchier characters and a climactic orgy of healing emotions (not excluding a wailing gospel tune), the pic does try to lend its figures at least two dimensions. Tech package is telepic-decent. Pic received first feature Bronze Remi award at WorldFest.

Reunion

Production

A Small Potatoes production. Produced by Jack E. McLean Jr., Penny Styles McLean, Rudy Vessup. Executive producer, Jerry Norman III. Directed, written by Sheila Norman

Crew

Camera (color), Tom Clancey; editor, Penny Styles Camera (color, DVcam), Tom Clancey; editor, Penny Styles McLean; music, Jeff Fishman, Lenny Greene, Aggy Mysty Owens, Doug Williams; production designer, Rudy Vessup. Reviewed at San Francisco Black Film Festival, June 10, 2006. (Also in WorldFest, Houston.) Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Carolyn Owens, Trisha Mann, Dickie Wrightsil, Sid Burston, Dominiqua Alexis, Micah Marie, Maxine Hayden, Randy Wayne, Jenise Fryatt, James White, Helen Henson, Tammarrah Walker, Jae Henson, Jimmie Walker Jr.
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