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Bringing Down the House
2003 - PG-13 - 105 Mins.
Director: Adam Shankman
Producer: Ashok Amritraj, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Written By: Jason Filardi
Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Jean Smart, Kimberly J. Williams
Review by: John Ulmer
   

I see here on the computer that this movie made money!
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"...
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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