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Bringing Down the House - 3/5 Stars
Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy
REVIEW BY JOHN ULMER
Everyone has their favorite funnymen. One of mine is Steve Martin. He brings
more of a naivety to his comedic roles. He is often someone thrown into the
midle of something. Or someone the target of laughs. He can play the Average
Joe amazingly well. Check out "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Father of
the Bride," etc. He can be stupid ("The Jerk"), he can be smart ("The
Spanish Prisoner"), he can be ruthless ("Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"), and he
is versatile. And when it all comes down to it, I can't really explain. He's
just (one of) my personal favorite(s).
In "Bringing Down the House," Martin plays Peter Sanderson, an uptight white
American lawyer who enunciates words like a white person, walks like a white
person, and generally acts like an upper-class white man. He has an ex-wife
(who actually looks his age, something Hollywood usually doesn't do), and
two kids. Being a busy businessman, or a cliched character in a cliched
screenplay, Peter of course has no time for his family. How many times have
we seen the father late for the baseball game ("Hook")? How many times has
the busy bee worker not known his daughter has been sneaking out of the
house at night? I'm getting ahead of myself.
In the beginning, Peter connects with another female lawyer via the
Internet. This woman calls herself Lawyer-Girl, and her name turns out to be
Chelsea. After chatting for what we are to believe has been a considerably
short time, Peter agrees to meet Chelsea for a blind date. He describes
himself as having "boyishly light hair." She describes herself as
"athletic." Imagine his surprise when he finds out she is really an obese
black woman, played by Queen Latifah. Chelsea is out to prove her innocence
over a case of armed robbery, which she says she did not commit. Peter,
shocked by the entire situation, throws her out of his house, but after she
basically blackmails him, Peter has no choice but to help her out.
Soon, with the help of his lovestruck friend (Eugene Levy), Peter finds out
Chelsea is innocent, but how to prove this to the Feds? Meanwhile, Chelsea
it showing Martin how to find time for his kids, not scold his daughter so
that she confide in him more, and to get back his ex-wife. How many times
has this been done, Reader? I ask of you--how many times have you seen The
Uptight Businessman be turned around by a Lower-Class Minority Person Who
Knows it All?
Thank God this didn't turn into a courtroom comic-drama towards the end with
cheesy sentimentality. When I heard that Chelsea wanted to be represented by
a lawyer, I figured that it would end in court. It didn't. I praised God it
avoided this. The film also avoids another big cliche: Martin doesn't get
romantically involved with Latifah. This can be considered good or bad. If
you ask me, it's better. I don't want to see Martin making it with Queen
Latifah, I guess I just have something against skinny white men with obese
black women. Call me racist. Or maybe it's just out of decency and personal
relief for the audience.
There are a lot of funny moments in this movie, but also a lot of unfunny
ones. There are long stretches to the good gags. Among the good gags is when
Martin dresses up as a black rapper (or is it "rappa"?) and enters a
strictly-blacks-only nightclub, grabbing his testicles and saying, "Y'all
got a bathroom in here?", and then parading around in his outfit and dancing
with some girls.
But "Bringing Down the House" is a spot dry, a bit of a disappointment. It
avoids some cliches, but gathers a lot more on its way to avoiding the
primary ones. We know exactly what is going to happen. The Black Woman is
going to teach the Uptight White Man to relax, because as the Black Woman,
she has got it all going on. She knows the meaning of life. The Uptight
White Man doesn't.
While "Bringing Down the House" is definitely worth seeing, it's not a
particularly well-crafted comedy, and is a tad bit disappointing. It's
entertaining and watchable, and a great 100 minute waste, but don't expect
anything too original. Please, no "Bringing Down the House Again"...
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