BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): **
Isn't slavery funny? Ugh! With offensive racial humor and with drug smoking in
a PG-13 comedy, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE is one Disney film that families can
certainly do without. Although its pairing of the always wonderful Steve Martin
with the sassy Queen Latifah (Oscar nominee for CHICAGO) does sound promising,
the odious script by Jason Filardi doesn't give them much to work with that they
can be proud of and Adam Shankman's direction is very uneven.
Still there are some funny moments as high-priced tax lawyer Peter Sanderson
(Martin), under duress, ends up with ex-con Charlene Morton (Latifah) as a pro
bono client. Her deal with him is that if he'll prove her innocent, she won't
embarrass him at work. She's black you see, and his boss's sister (Betty White)
is a racist.
Subplots are everywhere. Peter is divorced from Kate (Jean Smart) but still
loves her. They share custody of two adorable kids, Georgey (Angus T. Jones),
who should be reading by now but isn't, and Sarah (Kimberly J. Brown), who
shouldn't be sneaking out of the house but is. Meanwhile, at work Peter is
trying to land a conservative billionaire client, Mrs. Arness (Joan Plowright).
Comedian Eugene Levy is the movie's scene stealer as Howie Rosenthal, Peter's
partner and Charlene's would-be lover.
There are only two really memorable moments in the film -- not counting those
offensive times that might embarrass you for having bought a ticket. The first
cute scene has Charlene in a no-holds-barred fight with Ashley (Missi Pyle),
Kate's sister. (Ashley dates men so old that they have to wear oxygen masks to
dinner, and they drool out the soup that she feeds them on their dates. It is
embarrassing to watch these cheap shots at senior citizens.) The other humorous
sequence occurs in an all-black nightclub, where Peter goes and does his best
"You know what they say, 'Once you go black, you'll never go back,'" Kate tells
Ashley about Peter's dating a black woman. This is one of the many bits that
will give some viewers pause. Another is a song about slavery that Mrs. Arness
sings at dinner and which she wants Charlene to join in singing. The whites at
the table just look pained. Not one of them speaks out against the song's
racism. The scene is one of this year's cinematic low points.
BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE runs 1:45. It is rated PG-13 for "language, sexual
humor and drug material" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, March 7, 2003. In the
Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC and the Century theaters.
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