Eddie Murphy’s 1992 romantic comedy “Boomerang” begat BET’s new sequel series, which doesn’t share its predecessor’s outrageous brand of humor. Instead, the new “Boomerang” is the epitome of Millennial cool — stylish and ambitious, but not willing to be defined in any traditional way.
In the original film, womanizing ad exec Marcus Graham (Eddie Murphy) has the tables turned on him by his co-worker Jacqueline (Robin Givens), who then becomes his superior. Eventually, he falls for the talented artist Angela (Halle Berry). At the time, the film was a revelation of representation — depicting black excellence in a hilarious, heightened environment and boasting a killer supporting cast, including Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Grace Jones, John Witherspoon, Eartha Kitt, and Chris Rock.
Berry joins forces with Lena Waithe (“The Chi”) to produce the BET sequel series, in which Marcus Graham’s grown daughter Simone (Tetona Jackson) and Jacqueline’s son Bryson (Tequan Richmond) are lifelong friends who work together at her father’s Atlanta-based ad agency. At 26, they still haven’t found their voice or career path, but are starting to discover both. Along the way, they also examine their changing feelings for each other.
While outrageous characterizations and situations were hallmarks of the film — Jones as feral fashion diva Strangé is iconic — the humor here is far more subdued. Instead, grounded problems and observations about everyday human failings amuse through recognition and familiarity. This is in keeping with a generation conversant with a vocabulary of authenticity and self-exploration. A scene featuring a monologue from Bryson in the first episode reflects this earnestness:
What saves “Boomerang” from becoming too precious — despite Bryson’s trips into nostalgia and romantic idealism — lies in its other lead. Jackson plays go-getter Simone with charismatic ease, which helps when she appears to take advantage of the many smitten men who come into her orbit. Gender norms aren’t necessarily flipped as they are challenged with such a compelling and nuanced character, who may or may not be aware of her effect on men. The magnetic Jackson is relative unknown (she appeared in Hulu’s teen drama “All Night”) and a fresh new find for the series. Richmond (“Everybody Hates Chris”), RJ Walker (“Atlanta”) and Paula Newsome (“Barry”) are all more familiar, reliable face.
Beyond setting the stage for a “Friends”-like core cast — three guys and three girls navigate life and dating — the first two episodes provided to critics for review aren’t enough to indicate the show’s point of view or direction. At this point, it’s just easier to contrast it with some similarly themed projects to identify what it isn’t: It’s far too grounded for the for the magical realism of “Atlanta”; its characters are too green for the more mature storytelling seen in BET sister series “Being Mary Jane”; and it’s far less glib and message-driven than Freeform’s “The Bold Type.”
Instead, like Bryson’s sexually fluid pal Ari (Leland Martin), “Boomerang” defies simple categorization or labels. It appears to be a lackadaisical rom-com, an examination of changing generational values, a navel-gazing journey into adulthood, a snapshot of Millennial Atlanta. And despite its familiar name, it is most certainly not 1992’s “Boomerang,” which potentially could disappoint those fans who are expecting “mushroom belt” callbacks.
Perhaps this younger, contemporary “Boomerang” should have just dispensed with the callback name altogether. However, part of its rite of passage is overcoming the Millennial stereotype of privilege and entitlement. If BET’s series can overcome that challenge, then it deserves to be accepted on its own terms, no matter what it decides to call itself.
”Boomerang” premieres Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 10 p.m. ET on BET.