Coming to grips with the past is the centerpiece of Bleecker Street’s family drama Montana Story. Writing and directing duo Scott McGehee and David Siegel collaborate again for the film, which I must warn viewers is a slow-moving drama.
Harmless comedy in The Upshaws
Comedian Mike Epps takes another stab at headlining a situation comedy series in Netflix’s The Upshaws. Bennie Upshaw (Mike Epps), the head of a Black working-class family in Indianapolis, is a charming, well-intentioned mechanic and lifelong mess just trying his best to step up and care for his family. His family includes his wife Regina (Kim Fields), their two young daughters Aaliyah (Khali Daniya-Renee Spraggins) and Maya (Journey Christine), and firstborn son Bernard (Jermelle Simon).
Bennie also has another teenage son Kelvin (Diamond Lyons), that he fathered with another woman Tasha (Gabrielle Dennis). Not to mention he has to tolerate his sardonic sister-in-law Lucretia (Wanda Sykes) and help his recently paroled best friend Duck (Page Kennedy), all without a blueprint for success. Nevertheless, the Upshaws are determined to make it work and make it to the next level together.
Over the years, Mike Epps’s stand-up specials for me have been hit or miss as most of the time, his jokes were not hitting for me. Even after seeing Epps live back in 2015 on The Black & Brown Comedy Tour, where he was the headliner, I was not too impressed. Despite this, Epps showed some impressive dramatic range in the Sparkle remake and was quite enjoyable on Survivor’s Remorse as Uncle Julius. Sadly Epps left Survivor’s Remorse to collaborate with super-producer Will Packer for a short-lived Uncle Buck remake.
Luckily, The Upshaws has an excellent creative team behind the scenes as Regina Y. Hicks and Wanda Sykes created the show. Epps carries the show pretty role as a father who means well but still makes careless mistakes. One of the funniest moments is in Episode 1. Two of his kids have birthday parties on the same day; Bennie scrambles to find a venue for one and has to bounce back and forth between events. Epps uses his natural charisma to make the jokes work.
The supporting cast is good, with particular strong moments from Sykes whenever she engages in the dozens with Epps. I also liked seeing one of my favorite television actresses, Gabrielle Dennis, tap into her ratchet side. The young actors who portray Bennie’s kids all have quality moments on the show as well. The writers’ rooms avoid the trope of having kids smarter than the parents and just let them revel in their youth. One of my favorite moments with the kids involved Kelvin and Aaliyah getting to know each other as brother and sister instead of stepsiblings.
However, the MVP of the show for me is Kim Fields in the role of Regina Upshaw. A legend in her own right, I have been a fan of Kim Fields since her days as Tootie on The Facts Of Life. Fields have the uncanny ability to steal every scene she is in with just a simple smile. I identified with the character, as she wants to better herself who sometimes just wants to have a little me time.
If I had one gripe about The Upshaws, it would be the show’s use of a laugh track. Personally, the jokes were already landing for me, so the laugh track become a distraction. A generally enjoyable show, The Upshaws kept my attention over its first season run, and I look forward to season two.
Final Grade: B-
The Upshaws is streaming on Netflix now
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