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Movie Review

'Black Or White' Is As Thoughtful As It Is Funny


I know little about seven-year-old children and I understand less about why people want to be involved with them. So I approached Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer's new movie Black or White with no expectations that I would enjoy it as much as I did.

Octavia Spencer in 'Black or White'

Costner and Spencer are involved in a custody battle over new child star Jillian Estell, who we should be seeing a lot of from this picture on. And there is no Shirley Temple cuteness to Estell or stereotype in anybody.

Is Kevin Costner bigoted against blacks? His case against the child's father, Andre Holland, seems pretty tight without regard to race, but so does Holland's defense. Octavia Spencer shows as much sign of bigotry as Costner does, except that she's bigoted in favor of family. I still can't decide whether Black or White is about real bigotry or just about the damage done by suspicions of bigotry, an almost equally important problem.

The legal system is, for once, shown sympathetically, with Paula Newsome the most attractive judge I can recall on the big screen.

There's very little sentimentality-- surprisingly little considering that Estell has a lot of screen time. In fact, it may be that she's a little underplayed to avoid sentimentality. Even in a funeral scene, Black or White has very few tears.

There's a good deal of appropriate comedy, especially involving Spencer and Judge Newsome and a really unbelievable overachiever designated driver-- he's the only incredible character in the movie, but he's too modest and enjoyable to be offensive, especially in a movie where the danger is sentimental slop, not satire.

Black or White is that rare thing, an objective race comedy that's as thoughtful as it is funny.