Chemistry Fizzles in "Bringing Down the House"
by Homer Yen
If you haven't seen "Bringing Down the House" but
are perhaps thinking about it, you might be
swayed into watching it for two reasons. Star
Steve Martin possesses a crisp and funny persona,
boyishly appealing charm, and a
sit-up-and-take-notice eloquence. If you found
him engaging as this year's host of the Academy
Awards, you'll find him equally engaging in this
film. The other noticeable presence belongs to
Queen Latifah, who oozes confidence, sexuality,
and a don't-be-disrespecting-me pride.
We enjoy watching these two on screen. And
though an unlikely couple, they have good
chemistry together. However, while this looks
like the perfect catalyst for some comedic
sparks, the way in which the film evolves causes
the duo's vibrancy to fizzle.
Steve Martin and Queen Latifah come to know each
other as a result of one of those blind chat
rooms. He's a highly successful tax attorney
named Peter. But immense success like this comes
with some sacrifices. He is a divorced father of
two. And, he has become so uptight and stressed
from the pressure of his high-profile position,
the challenges to his dominance from a rookie
colleague, the vituperative musings of his
plastic ex-sister-in-law, and the uncomfortable
presence of his nosy and dotty neighbor.
His frail suburban existence is only slightly
buoyed by his online relationship with
Lawyergirl, who Peter believes to be an
attractive female attorney. His brief chat room
correspondence scenes are accompanied by playful
music that evoke a "You've Got Mail" kind of
romantic playfulness (or perhaps an urge to shop
at a small French boutique). But when they
finally break their code of anonymity, he is
aghast to learn that she looks less like the prim
attorney he had envisioned but more like Queen
Latifah on a very bad hair day. He does his best
to get rid of her, but she refuses to leave
unless he helps her with a case in which she
states that she has been wrongfully accused.
Most of the comedy emanates from this strange
couple at odds with each other. He does his best
to maintain his white-collar world. But she
possesses many real-world skills that help to
make him a better person. She teaches him how to
be a more attentive father, how to build resolve,
and how to flaunt his manhood to win back his
ex-wife. He definitely needs a few pointers.
After all, in his most sexually primal state, the
best dirty talk he can muster is "I want to have
sexual intercourse with you!" It's no surprise
that they start to bond.
While the movie has its moments, it's
surprisingly not as cheery or as humorous as one
might think. Partly, it doesn't have the
uproarious quality you'd expect from seeing the
trailers. Other than the lesson in sex and the
final scene in which Peter goes undercover as one
of the homie-boyz, the film is kind of on cruise
control. Strangely, our luscious Queen is
eventually paired with Peter's associate, Howie
(played by Eugene Levy). Ok, Howie is kind of
funny behind those furry eyebrows and in his
deadpan sort of way. But it kind of goes against
the convention of standard romantic comedies.
Blending these two is like watching oil and
vinegar come together. You'll like Steve and
Queen, but consider "Bringing Down the House"
merely a mild distraction.
S: 1 out of 3
L: 1 out of 3
V: 1 out of 3
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.