Having seen several films on the trot where race is used to `comic' effect in a string of endless racist jokes it was refreshing to sit and watch a film where the cast were almost 100% black but the story was not told in relation to the colour of it's characters. Instead the story is a straight story of childhood memories and it could easily have been any culture telling it. Of course there is a thread of black culture running through the film but it is simply there as opposed to being the focus.
The story is slight and not totally together but it is interesting. The reasons for Roland's doubts are not made totally clear by the end of the film and there is a suggestion that it is really just a frame for the memories to occur within. This isn't too bad as the memories are really more of the story than the modern day trigger is. Both strands work quite well as long as you don't expect too much, it has a gentle humour that is pleasant and enjoyable and both strands seem to be able to carry it. The `to-camera' narration was a bit of a risk that I thought it didn't totally carry off but, happily, after the first 10 minutes it is pretty much absent for the rest of the film. Some of the strands don't totally come to a close and the fact that the main plot (Roland going missing on his wedding day) is mostly a side issue is a distraction but not to a detrimental point.
The cast are all pretty good. Epps is a good lead and is a likeable character. Diggs is good looking but he doesn't act as well as he can for much of the movie his `drunk' acting is pretty poor although he gets better as he sobers up. Jones is a bit of a comedy figure but does his job well despite being the least developed of the three. The teenage actors all carry themselves well, although in this modern tabloid world of hysteria it is a little uncomfortable to watch two young teenagers have sex (although I was relieved to find that the sexy one of them, Malinda Williams, was actually 24 when she played a 14 year old). The women are all very good looking but have lesser roles as the males take the meat of the story Tamala Jones is good and Epps' co-star from Love & Basketball (Sanaa Lathan) joins him for a brief role.
Overall it is a very light film that has a plot in a very basic sense but is really more of a nostalgic trip down the teenage years that is told with honesty and humour. It may not resemble any life I ever had but there were themes I could relate to. Slight but fun and, after seeing National Security, Undercover Brother and Bringing Down the House (where race is used for humour, rather than being a side issue) The Wood was also a breath of fresh air.