A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this romantic comedy takes up a serious theme, the tensions that emerge in interracial dating. It features sexual references and situations, including a couple of gentle kissing scenes and one gently framed sex scene (body parts and faces in close-up). Characters use slang for intercourse and genitalia (e.g., "hoochie," "bone"). At a comedy club, the routine, focused on interracial dating, includes jokes about the DC Sniper and white men being serial killers. Characters drink at parties and at dinner.
What's the story?
SOMETHING NEW follows Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan). Ambitious and fundamentally insecure, she's trying to make partner at a prestigious L.A. accounting firm and find her IBM (Ideal Black Man). As she and her similarly equipped, ambitious, and disappointed girlfriends -- Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Suzzette (Golden Brooks), and Neda (Taraji P. Henson) -- commiserate over drinks, they cite the infamous statistic: 42.4% of black women will never marry, owing to a dearth of acceptable partners. Her friends arrange a blind date with a white man, Brian (Simon Baker). Though she does her best to put him off, he's a nice guy and shares some of her interests. As they enter into a romantic relationship, her wannabe-player, serial dating brother Nelson (Donald Faison) asks if she's "sleeping with the enemy"; her girlfriends insist her relationship with Brian is just about sex. And then, on cue, Nelson introduces her to his former law school professor, Mark (Blair Underwood), with whom she has "more in common." They share stories of "that old black tax," and understand without having to explain what it means to have to "work twice as hard just to prove yourself equal."
Is it any good?
Something New is formulaic and well intentioned, with unusual race and culture dynamics. Brian knows Kenya is "sensitive about color," but also calls her on her fear of spiders (adorably, by giving her a copy of Charlotte's Web), her general nervousness, and her weave ("I'm just wondering what you looked like completely naked"). As she confesses to Brian, her background -- an asthmatic/sheltered childhood, cotillions and high class anxieties, high expectations from her uptight academic mother, and her own misreading of big-hearted doctor dad -- makes her worry about "having a good time" or worse, "being herself."
While Kenya's conflict is interesting, the film tends to reduce it to one-liner comments by antic supporting characters. Though she tries to resist Brian, he's part of the film's "opposites attract" formula. To this end, he endures interrogations by Kenya's brother and Cheryl's working class boyfriend.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Kenya's dilemma: how does her fear of "something new" limit her experience? How is her relationship with Brian affected by comments by her parents, her friends, and her younger brother? How do attitudes toward interracial relationships change over generations?