BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
Divorced uptight lawyer Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) believes he's wooing
a beautiful blonde attorney online, but is shocked to discover that Charlene
(Queen Latifah, "Chicago") is actually a large Black prison escapee who wants
him to take her case. Not understanding who he's up against, Peter refuses
and finds his world turned upside down by Charlene. Until she gets what she
wants, Charlene is "Bringing Down the House."
The likability quotient of Steve Martin and particularly Queen Latifah can't
"Bringing Down the House" into pass territory. Jason Filardi's
first screenplay is cobbled together from every unwanted guest/outsider helps
over obstacles/adversaries bond together to fight common cause comedy that's
come before it with the added distasteful elements of not one, but two,
racist old white women and a female fist fight every bit as out of place as
one in Adam Sandler's "Mr. Deeds" remake.
After its "You've Got Mail" beginning, director Adam Shankman ("A Walk to
wastes no time establishing Peter as the type of guy who lost his wife Kate
"Sweet Home Alabama") to his incessant cell phone and who constantly reneges
promises to the kids. His sister-in-law Ashley (Missi Pyle, "Josie and the
not only hates him, but has the amazing ability to dine at the very same
LA every time he goes out. On the career front Peter has to prove himself over
a young law
office hot shot in keeping an odious money-buckets widow, Mrs. Arness (Joan
"Tea With Mussolini"), with their firm. Yet another ball and chain from the
embodied by Peter's boss's busybody sister, Mrs. Kline (Betty White, "Lake
who lives across the street. Now just add large, loud, funky black woman from
for instant hilarity.
Martin has exemplary comic timing and reacts with gumby-faced verve while
moves between the lingoes of street and society, rolling out the warmth as the
progresses, but the filmmakers let each down in the physical comedy
arena. "Bringing Down the House' can't stretch Martin's ability to move beyond
men can't dance' cliche, although it does hand him a parody (not intended as
such, I'm sure)
scene of Warren Beatty's "Bulworth." Latifah must suffer through some crudely
slapstick (she punches Martin out when he comes to awaken her) and a vile and
wholly unnecessary ladies' room catfight that has her pounding her opponent's
Eugene Levy ("American Pie," "Best in Show") adds a welcome dose of weirdness as
buddy Howie Rottman, a man undone by the goddessness of Latifah. Freak Boy, as
affectionately calls him, is this comedy's comic relief, a lackey lothario in
Betty White plays Mrs. Kline as if she were in a television commercial, although
does deliver one admittedly funny line - "I thought I heard Negro being spoken"
Charlene creates a scene outside of Peter's front door. Joan Plowright goes for
one-note 'dreaded old matron with ridiculous pet' character and gets to show off
vocal range regaling the Sanderson family dinner table with a few choruses of
you going to sell me today?" (As if that weren't bad enough, it's motivation
to dose her dinner with Maalox only to see the plates get switched.) Later on,
a doob with the homies because old people getting stoned is funny. Kimberly J.
("Tumbleweeds") and Angus T. Jones ("The Rookie") handle the roles of Peter's
enough, giving Martin comic fodder when Charlene steps in to help each over a
Presumably, "Bringing Down the House" is about the spiritual gains to be had by
other members of the human race, but predictably, here the helping hand has to
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