By Braeden Pelton
Juneteenth is finally a recognized holiday. Seeing movies pop up about the celebration is so heartwarming, and “Block Party: a Juneteenth Comedy” does a good job of sharing that feeling.
“Block Party” follows Keke McQueen after she comes home to Grand Rapids, finally graduating from Harvard. Keke’s grandmother Janice has been hosting the Summer Sizzle, a summer block party for Juneteenth for 40 years and Keke used to help her organize these events when she was younger. Her grandmother is having trouble getting this year’s festivities arranged as she now has dementia. Given her condition, Keke’s grandmother has forgotten to get sponsors, vendors, or any of the licenses.
The community enlists Keke to help her grandmother save the party. The party is five days away and nothing is prepared. The task gets more difficult due to Keke´s mother. She wants Keke to focus on her career rather than wasting time on this dying celebration. As such Keke´s mother attempts to guilt trip her, and even sabotage the block party. A spiteful Karen is the head Fire Marshall overseeing the event, she has a particular dislike for the Summer Sizzle since the previous Fire Marshall let the party go with few restrictions.
With all of these forces coming together to unravel the block party, Keke, her grandmother, and the rest of their team have to figure out a way to get this event set up without legal issue in less than a week.
“Block Party” was produced by a local company, Branch Out Productions. They’re a film company from Grand Rapids that is run primarily by minority women. The producer and president of Branch Out, Lisa Mathis, grew up in Grand Rapids and had the inspiration for this movie from her own childhood. Her family would attend summer barbecues at a local park after church on Sundays. People enjoying their community and having fun. Exactly what they captured for the film.
There are some very likable characters such as Keke, her grandmother, and father. But some are used for awkward comedy, like second hand embarrassment which can be a bit much. Aside from that, most of the jokes land well. A lot of it is very tongue in cheek but that’s why it has the 14+ rating on Common Sense Media.
Overall I enjoyed the film and gave it a 7.5. It is a charming story, funny, it’s local so it hits home, and there are quite a few larger actors that were in the film like Charlene Ye (Steven Universe), Margaret Avery (The Color Purple), and 88-year-old film legend Bill Cobbs.