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"Noah’s Arc" Succeeds at Jumping to the Big Screen

Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom is a ferociously funny, witty, and sexy bookend to the groundbreaking television series…

Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom is a ferociously funny, witty, and sexy bookend to the groundbreaking television series of the same name which aired on Logo (AfterElton.com’s parent company) for two seasons. Playing like an extended version of the most well-written and acted episode of the show, the film version successfully extends the scope of the series to fit its big-screen surroundings.

Most easily described as a gay version of Why Did I Get Married with a little Sex and the City-style raunch thrown in, not only will Jumping the Broom please die-hard fans of the show while being entirely accessible to new viewers, it immediately ascends to the top of a largely-ignored subgenre: the gay romantic comedy.

While gay movies are too often sorry tales of heartrending coming out stories, AIDS dramas, and doomed love affairs, visions of happy, healthy gays loving, laughing, and living are sorely lacking on film. After seeing Noah’s Arc, I racked my brain to find a gay romantic comedy that comes close to the level of humor and warmth on display here, and I simply couldn’t find any.

After years of false starts (Trick) and charming but ultimately hollow efforts (A Four Letter Word), Jumping the Broom delivers smashingly on this score, coupling the engaging characters you know and love with a matter-of-fact attitude toward gay marriage that has never before been seen on film. The impending nuptials in the story are never treated as anything less than such; for the gay couples in Noah‘s world, marriage is simply something that is done when two people love each other.

And to see healthy and happy gays co-existing on film, gays to whom marriage is simply the next logical step in a relationship, is extremely rare, even more so given that this film has a nearly entirely black and Latino cast. Diversifying the images seen of gay culture is as important as increasing gay visibility in general, and Jumping the Broom does this effortlessly by creating memorable situations and characters to which all audiences can connect.

The film takes its title from slavery-era slang for getting married (a broom was literally jumped over in view of witnesses due to the lack of access to other signifiers), and also jumps forward in real time two years after the events of the Noah’s Arc series finale that found Wade and Noah inching back together after a serious motorcycle accident.

This outing finds the gang heading to Martha’s Vineyard for the wedding of the two doe-eyed lovers, but the road to the altar ends up a bit bumpier than expected. The 101 minutes of Jumping the Broom are so jam-packed with plot it seems as if all involved are making up for lost time. Unwanted guests arrive, relationships are tested, and sometimes-outlandish plot twists abound, but Darryl Stephens grounds the proceedings, infusing Noah with a newfound confidence and resolve that results in the most layered performance in the film.

Alex (Rodney Chester), Ricky (Christian Vincent), and Chance (Douglas Spearman) are all back as well, with two years worth of experience and some unexpected life changes having also added a bit more depth to their personas.

Chance and Eddie (Jonathan Julian) are at a turning point in their marriage, which is all the more complicated by the presence of Ricky’s new boyfriend Brandon (Gary LeRoi Gray), a young, semi-closeted student of Chance’s who may be hot for teacher. Ricky, however, is still Ricky. His tastes for anything with a pulse and a six-pack haven’t mellowed with time and he remains typically unrepentant about cruising online for Martha’s Vineyard’s most eligible bachelors.

Noah’s Arc the series was initially criticized for being populated with caricatures in place of characters, but this simply isn‘t true with Jumping the Broom. The five primary characters are all given storylines that are woven into the themes of love, acceptance, and truth at play in the story, making for some surprisingly tender moments and a few shocking ones as well.

There is plenty of soapy drama to be had, but what makes the film unexpectedly effective is its refusal to go down a predictable road. Director Patrik Ian-Polk never lets the audience off easy, instead choosing to reel us in as we watch the characters make some unexpected choices and deal with the consequences that follow.

Although this all sounds somewhat serious (and at times it is), Jumping the Broom is still a great deal of fun and filled with some big laughs. To say that this film will be a fan favorite is an understatement, as it seems to have been written specifically with the fans in mind.

That said, Polk also ensures Jumping the Broom’s accessibility to the uninitiated, cannily creating the wide-eyed newbie character of Brandon to function as a window into the characters’ complicated history. The cast gamely throws themselves into the assorted drunken shenanigans and pratfalls required, and a boisterous surprise appearance by a memorable supporting player arrives like a jolt of energy to a sometimes-somber second act.

However, the star of the comedic show here is Rodney Chester’s Alex. Chester has previously stated in interviews that he had no acting experience prior to Noah, so his embodiment of the sassy, sharp Alex is a perfect storm of Chester’s natural comedic timing combined with Polk‘s direction. Alex gets some of the biggest laughs in the movie, and Chester clearly relishes his court-jester role as he twirls, twists, and snaps his way into a wedding planning frenzy, spouting razor-sharp one-liners all along the way. The character of Alex can be grating to some, and there is no doubt that a little of him goes a long way, but in Jumping the Broom he truly is the film’s comedic pulse.

The film isn’t without its flaws. As swoon-worthy as Jensen Atwood is, his Wade sometimes feels muted, and some of his dramatic scenes near the end come off as more petulant than angry. Some of his climactic confrontations with Noah and others lack the intensity that would make them truly pop.

As stated earlier, much drama is packed into the movie, and this results in some of the dropped bombshells being wrapped up a bit too tidily in the pursuit of closure. However, these quibbles are minor in the grand scheme of what is ultimately a very enjoyable movie sure to give fans and newcomers alike exactly what they want.

Jumping the Broom seamlessly takes elements of the romantic comedy genre and marries them to unique characters, creating something that is at once comfortably familiar and thrillingly new. The fact that it also succeeds as a completely entertaining, smart, and funny movie is, well, just the icing on the wedding cake.

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