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Film / Made in America

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Made in America is a 1993 comedy film, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Danson, Nia Long, Will Smith, and Jennifer Tilly. The film was directed by Richard Benjamin, previously known for such films as Downtown (1990) and Mermaids (1990).

Zora Mathews (Long) is a 17-year-old high-school student, working on getting a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Sarah Grace Matthews (Goldberg), her mother, is the proud owner of the "African Queen" bookstore, a shop providing reading material to an African-American audience. Sarah is a widow of 17 years and Zora has never met her father. One day in school Zora and her best friend Tea Cake "T.C." Walters (Smith) are learning how to test blood for blood types in biology class. Zora learns that her blood type is AB. She immediately realizes something. Sarah's blood type is A, her dead husband's was O. Which means said dead husband was not her real father. (A mother with blood type A and father with blood type O, typically result in children with blood types A or O.)

Zora confronts her mother about it and learns the truth. She is the result of artificial insemination by donor. Which for Zora means one thing: her real father is somewhere out there. So she gets Sarah to give her the address of the sperm bank. Then visits the bank with Tea Cake. The boy serves as a donor, while the girl manages to locate an unsupervised computer. She checks out the files of the clinic and finds out the name of her father: Halbert Jackson.

Zora managed to locate said "dad" and contacts him in person. She gets the shock of her life as this happens to be Halbert "Hal" Jackson (Danson) of Jackson Motors. A well-known car salesman, famous for his outrageous television advertisements using trained animals. Hal is a womanizer, a chain-smoker, a booze-hound, a self-styled modern cowboy, and very much white. Very different from the father figure Zora had in mind. He is currently living with Stacy (Tilly), an aerobics teacher not known for her intellect. The newfound family ties between Zora, Sarah, and Hal result in much confusion in their lives.

Though this film did not fare well critically, it was a box-office hit, earning about $105 million in the worldwide market (about $45 million of which came from the United States market, where the film was the 30th most successful film of its year).

This film provides examples of:

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Sarah and Hal aren't exactly the most ideal parents to a smart teenager like Zora.
  • Award-Bait Song: Colors of Love by Lisa Fischer.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Once Hal starts treating Zora as his daughter, he shows signs of this. He has this advise to offer to her love interest Diego (Rawley Valverede): "Diego, you lay a hand on that girl and I'll kill you personally."
  • Chekhov's Gun: The way Zora folds her hands to crack her knuckles. She later does it the same time Hal does that proves he's Zora's father.
    • Later subverted since at the beginning Zora learns her blood type is AB (which started off the movie's plot) and since Hal is type O which means he's actually not Zora's father.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Tea Cake and Zora know each other since they were 7 and once made a promise to marry each other. In the present, ten years have passed. Tea Cake is infatuated with Zora. She isn't interested in him romantically. He is not particularly happy to see her dating Diego.
  • Dance Party Ending: The movie ends with a high school graduation rap.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Hal. At one point he gives Zora a lift. He drives his car at high speeds, over the grass next to the road, and swerves while in traffic, barely avoiding a collision with another car. Zora is feeling sick when leaving the vehicle. When Hal and Zora go to the hospital after Sarah's accident, he double parks behind a police car. This guy is the Karma Houdini of bad drivers.
    • Sarah does this trope on her bike. The opening credits show her weaving between cars, going on sidewalks, almost hitting pedestrians and other cyclists, and crossing against moving traffic. It's a wonder she wasn't hit before the end of the film.
    • Zora is a subversion on her motor scooter.
  • Family of Choice: Hal decides to continue being Zora’s father figure even after learning he's not really her biological father, and she happily accepts - which all but explicitly confirms that Hal and Sarah will get married to make this official.
  • Gene Hunting: The plot is sparked by Zora discovering that her mother's late husband wasn't actually her father, and then looking for him. She finds out that he's a sperm donor who her mother used, then goes to meet the guy.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: The tape Tea Cake watches at the sperm bank has this apparently.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Averted. Several scenes involve Hal and the salesmen, and one saleswoman, working for him. They rely on their charm to make sales. But they seem to sell quality cars and none of their clients is depicted complaining.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Hal accidentally eats a Wasabi ball.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Sarah gets drunk at Hal's car dealership when first meeting him.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Sarah realizes the elephant from Hal's car commercial is chasing her.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: A jealous T.C. points out Zora's skimpy outfit for a date to her mother.
    Sarah: Oh, no you don't, Miss Thing!
    T.C.: (piping in) Oh, no you don't, Miss Thing!
  • Parental Incest: Toyed with twice. 1) When Zora first approaches Hal, Hal finds her to be hot. He flirts with her, with some rather suggestive lines. For example, she says "You are white". He replies with "Well, that's true, darling. But when we're alone in the dark, what difference is that gonna make?". Clearly thinking about sex. 2) Later Hal has a problem with the zipper of his pants. Zora kneels on the floor to help him with it. His secretary gets the impression that the girl is about to perform fellatio on him.
  • Serial Escalation: Before and during the bear commercial, Hal's publicist keeps moving further and further away in fear. He eventually ends up on the roof of the dealership.
  • Smells Sexy: Hal invites Sarah out for dinner. This is at first not depicted as a romantic situation. But then he gets turned on ... by her scent. Repeatedly sniffing her and commenting "You smell good ...I could get lost in that smell. I could just close my eyes and no one would ever find me". The two then head to her house for sex.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The sales personnel of the car dealership includes only one woman: Paula (Charlene Fernetz).
  • Two out of Three Ain't Bad: The tagline for the film: "She wanted a sperm donor who was tall, black, and handsome. One out of three ain't bad."