Bringing Down The House
Bringing Down The House, on paper, is nothing you haven't seen
before. Two people from different worlds are forced into
association, awkwardness, acceptance, and absolution. So, what does
director Adam Shankman (two horrible movies under his belt
previously) got that other movies ain't got? He has cool, strong
soul sista Queen Latifah, and witty white brainihonky Steve Martin,
with a dash of Übersquare Eugene Levy, that's what.
In Entertainment Weekly, Queen Latifah stated that the original draft
of this movie was a mess, and the article explains that she came in
and made funnier and more NAACP-friendly touchups to file down the
offense and sharpen the wit. Thank goodness!
It's good when we can be shocked by and laugh at an ignorant racist's
thoughtless comments. That means that we not only recognize, but are
appalled by the emotion behind it. That indeed is progress. The
movie does not apologize for its racist characters, as they are part
of life, and indeed, no great downfall becomes them for their
stereotypical assumptions - also part of life. The message is not
"fix everyone" but "be true to yourself" as well as "you can accept
anyone if you can accept yourself as you are." This is a very cool
message. It's also good when two diverse people can learn from each
other's perspectives without giving up who they are, or one character
assuming the role of "the better one" lifting the other out of the
squalor. Regardless of the source of contrast (ghetto vs. uptight,
poor vs. rich, slutty vs. virginal) the best of these types of
comedies enable both characters to transcend their own lives' traps &
pitfalls through what they learn from the other side of the tracks.
Latifah's character steadfastly refuses to Standard-Americanize her
speech, but she knows how to do so when needed. Martin's character
compromises Latifah's dignity while sucking up to the intolerant
bastards he is afraid of, people with the power to ruin his life; he
regains his soul when he finally stops. Trust me, I am not spoiling
any plot points here. If you didn't know this sort of thing was
going to happen, you have no business leaving the house unattended.
No bones about it, Bringing Down The House treads a fine line between
"black people are completely cooler than white people" and "old
racists will never learn." It sacrifices some funny to the PC gods,
but overall, it's a pleasant movie that respects it characters and
does it with some gusto. It hasn't been all that well received,
probably because it is nowhere near as hilarious as its cast could
have made it; the biggest set pieces end up getting watered down in
support of the Message, and it leaves some sense of hollowness behind.
Occasionally the film seems to lose track of its narrative goal in
favor of a random "ain't white folks silly" sequence (example: every
word of Eugene Levy's dialogue) - and we're not sure what to hope
for. Do we want Steve Martin to get his wife back or get busy with
Ms. Latifah? Do we want justice on all the small minded obstacle
characters or do we want universal cheek-turning and dignity?
I did laugh a lot in this film (as did my loudly appreciative
audience and delighted companion) but I can't say that I felt as
satisfied as I could have with such a prime set up of King Tut and
Queen Latifah. It's fun and enjoyable, but something was missing.
These reviews (c) 2003 Karina Montgomery. Please feel free to forward
but just credit the reviewer in the text. Thanks.
Check out previous reviews at:
http://ofcs.rottentomatoes.com - the Online Film Critics Society
http://www.hsbr.net/reviews/karina/listing.hsbr - Hollywood Stock
Exchange Brokerage Resource
http://www.mediamotions.com for 1999 releases
NOTE: This review was posted on the usenet
to the rec.arts.movies.reviews newsgroup.
Mooviees.com accepts no responsibility for the contents of the review.
Unless stated otherwise, the copyright belongs to the author.