BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
Though banal, the actors do tend to hold their own among a blande script. Steve Martin's knack for physical comedy is entertaining, and Eugene Levy is funny as always with his deadpan inept shtick that I always like to watch, most particularly in "American Pie" and "Splash".
This movie presents a common comedy formula often ensured to bring laughs but hardly do they ever and "Bringing Down the House" tackles the formula head-on: upper class white family is intruded by hip black person, hip black person lives with upper class white family, teaches upper class white father to appreciate kids and wife more and upper class white family grow to love hip black person.
There are two rules that apply to this formula regarding the modern pro-PC era:
It's been done in many movies one of the most infamous and awful being "Houseguest" starring Sinbad and Phil Hartman (which was not only unfunny but a large McDonald's commercial), there was the mediocre "The Banger Sisters" which didn't follow the formula but remained faithful to every aspect except the racial differences, then there's the quintessential comedy film that these films wish they were "Uncle Buck" which was not only laugh out loud funny but actually had characters you could care about.
In a star vehicle of this kind I expected what I'd heard of "Non-stop laughs"; sure someone who watches comedies lately knows to never listen to hype, and boy was this film hyped. Everyone seemed to love it and everyone was raving about how this was funny and Martin and Latifah have great chemistry.
If you're reading this and you never read movie reviews I suggest you start because movie reviews can tell you what the studios don't want you to know. But I'm sure you already know that; here I am all condescending to you. Anyways, this film was one of the most overrated films of 2003, and while 2003 brought about some truly incredible and forgettable films, this falls into the latter.
Not only is this overrated but it never gives you what it leads to. I'm going to ruin it for you: Martin and Latifah never get together despite an obvious sexual attraction. Why is that? Who knows. Maybe its because the writers felt that a large African woman and a small white man shouldn't get together romantically which is a skewed thought process, but you end up rooting for them to get into a relationship and they don't which is one of the more ultimate let downs of this tripe.
Always an enjoyable comedic madman Eugene Levy best known for the "American Pie" films plays Sanderson's partner Howie who falls in love with Latifah's character at first sight, and it would be interesting if not for his under-developed character and odd infatuation with her. Levy is grossly under used in the film and serves as a distraction to the audience keeping us from asking: "Why aren't Martin and Latifah getting together?" Levy's character comes off as weasely and rather annoying which is usually not Levy's trademark.
Steve Martin plays Peter Sanderson, a workaholic lawyer who is engaging in an online correspondence with a mystery woman who wants to meet him, when he invites her over she ends up being (to put it gently) not what he expected. Queen Latifah plays Charlene Morton, the quintessential stereotypical African American woman who looks sloppy spouts slang non-stop and is loud. She admits she schemed Peter into meeting with her so he can defend her for a crime she didn't commit. They hate each other at first and battle non-stop at the first segment of the film which might have become funny had it not turned so ridiculous.
I rolled my eyes so much during this film I ended up getting a migraine. When he throws her out she starts screaming that he's her baby's daddy and stuff like that and he breaks and she moves in so he can defend her. The film doesn't focus enough on the actual case of her wrong imprisonment but instead focuses on the duo's evolving relationship from enemies into friends and I expected romantic entanglement between the two but alas, there's nothing.
The film dabbles from one bland joke to another and delves into a lot of racial jokes bordering on offensive including one scene where Martin's character attempts to woo a client and dresses up Latifah's character in a maid uniform. Boy do the racial epiteth's fly! At one point the client begins reminiscing of her slaves her family had and begins singing a slave song. While this may have been meant to expose one's ignorance it simply made me cringe in my seat, not laugh.
This movie continues with the stereotypes with a lot of mean African American people throwing large parties, gambling, smoking pot and what not and none of it is humorous. Martin at one point dresses up in hip hop clothing to sneak into a club and begins talking slang; a simply bland gag that has been seen time and time again. This film continues with the under-developed half-baked concept by having a cast of characters that rarely ever get screen time throughout the plot.
There's Martin's two charming kids (Kimberly J. Brown, Angus T. Jones) who are grossly underdeveloped with superficial sub-plots: One is a rebellious teen, the other has trouble reading; this might have been further developed into charming sub-plots but alas we're only on Martin and Latifah. Latifah has zero chemistry with the kids and her plots with them are contrived and cliche; I mean, who can forget the classic scene in "Uncle Buck" where the young Macaulay Caulkin is grilling John Candy with rapid fire questions? That's a classic scene and laugh out loud funny but Latifah has no interaction with the kids whatsoever.
If that isn't bad enough the hilarious Eugene Levy is very underused which is sad considering he would have given this movie the boost is deserved, the beautiful Jean Smart is also horribly underused as the wife. She has little to no emphasis nor does her relationship with Martin's character which makes it difficult to become involved in the storyline between them and is in the film as a plot device and basically a tool. She has very little lines and only appears in when convenient for the plot.
Also if you look closely you'll see small and underused roles from Victor Webster from "Mutant X" who plays Smart's young lover, and the often hilarious Michael Rosenbaum from "Smallville" who gives a small but hilarious role as a stuffy white lawyer displaying his incredible knack for comedy who inevitably gets his clocked cleaned by Latifah in the climax.
As always, there's the somewhat incomplete ending and an embarrasing closer as we see Eugene Levy's character sporting braids to impress his new honey; but it didn't impress me it only made me cringe and roll my eyes once more. What a surprise.
If you want a movie like this watch "Uncle Buck" which is basically the same plot except laugh out loud funny with a good plot and likable characters; don't bother watching this one.