Hey folks, Harry here with a very special treat. For years I've enjoyed talking with Martin Thomas about movies, geeky things and life in general, but I've never had a review by him to run on the site. I love his reviews btw, always have and frankly I dare say this'll be the finest roasting of this... particular film we'll see. So if ya like the review, drop him an e-mail and maybe we'll see more from him!
BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
Is it March already?
Dang! I missed Black History month again, and I had something really special planned this year. I was finally going to do my retrospective of “The Negro in Film”.
Oh, I don’t mean just any Negro. I’m talking about those special Negroes that come from mystical or exotic places (usually the ghetto) to shake things up in the lives of uptight white people but ultimately impart to them a special wisdom that teaches them to fully live life…but with a little bit of “soul”.
What better contribution could I make to African-American culture than to spotlight these unsung role models? Such luminaries as Sinbad, the wacky conman who teaches Phil Hartman the true meaning of friendship in THE HOUSEGUEST;Halle Berry, the ‘hood rat who schools a U.S. senator, Warren Beatty, in the inner workings of politics in BULLWORTH; Oscar nominee Michael Clark Duncan who proved that the next large black man you cower from just might be a magical, gentle giant with the power to cure Tom Hanks’ prostate in THE GREEN MILE; And of course a special segment to commemorate Will Smith in his role of the legendary BAGGER VANCE: An angel who descended just to help Matt Damon improve his golf game then danced a jig off into the sunset.
I guess I’ll just have to save that piece until next February. Although, the one good thing about waiting is that I’ll also be able to include Queen Latifah as the escaped felon with the heart of gold in the new movie BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE.
Steve Martin stars as Peter Sanderson, a successful tax attorney whose wife (Jean Smart) has left him and taken away his kids for the reprehensible crime of…
…Spousal abuse? No.
…Gambling away the family fortune? No.
…(wait for it)
Working too much!
-Needless to say, these are the white people.
Undaunted, Peter goes on with his life and even starts an Internet romance with a very sexy (according to the photo) fellow attorney. They setup to have a ‘non-virtual’ date but when Peter opens his front door standing there is not his legal blonde bombshell- but a very bodacious, very buxom and very black escaped convict named Charlene (Queen Latifah)- who happened to be in the background of the photo.
She pushes her way into Peter’s house and what follows is a series of warmed-over Porky Pig/Charlie the Dog gags in which Peter unsuccessfully tries everything imaginable to extricate Charlene from his home. Well, everything except…calling the cops! Which is what any normal person would’ve done at several points throughout the film. Sure, that would’ve been the end of the movie, so instead they carry on the pretense that she’s his ghetto-fabulous nanny while he tries to prove her innocence. By and by she teaches Peter to relax and (say it with me)
fully live life…but with a little bit of “soul”.
As with most movies released the first couple months after Oscar season, everything even remotely funny in BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE is in the trailers. Eugene Levy almost offers a bright spot as Peter’s ‘jungle fevered’ best friend, whose command of Ebonics is much better than my own. But that joke runs thin pretty early on. The rest of the movie is boring and derivative, but mostly so racially offensive I left with a cramp in my lower jaw from cringing through the 105 minute running time.
Not so much that all of the black people in the movie are dope-smoking, dice- rolling(!!!), unemployed lowlifes- sadly, I’m quite used to that cinematic standard. And not so much that the movie is all one long “White people do (X) like this…But black people do (X) like this…”joke- which it is.
What’s shocking is how ALL white people are portrayed as being such casual overt racists. The members of Peter’s country club and law firm all but call Charlene a nigger to her face. His prized billion-dollar client (Joan Plowright) asks Charlene to help her sing an ol’ Negro spiritual at the dinner table. Even Peter inexplicable pulls out a pink maid’s uniform for her to serve dinner in. And, if this movie is to be believed, white people are able to eat spaghetti with Milk of Magnesia poured on top of it and not taste the difference. Wow!
I never thought I’d live to see it, but BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE might be the first movie white people genuinely have the right to be offended by.
If there’s any strawberry to pick here it’s that the movie does a good job of exploiting Queen Latifah’s non-traditional sex appeal. I relish seeing more glamorous women that don’t resemble curveless, 12-year old boys. I’m just afraid that this might be the only clue to the big question:
“WHY?” Why Queen Latifah, why?
Sure, Steve Martin I can understand. With his recent string of bad movies it’s obvious that the THREE AMIGOS curse has finally caught up to him as it did Martin Short and Chevy Chase long ago.
And the director, Adam Shankman, is the same guy that delivered one of the worst movies of 2002, THE WEDDING PLANNER. It’s only mildly surprising that he’s gotten worse.
But Queen Latifah…you?!
Your name means something. You represent strong black women everywhere. Like Ice Cube, you’re much less a good actor as you are a charismatic personality…and what a personality, indeed! It garnered you a much-deserved Oscar nomination for your outstanding work in CHICAGO. Girl, you have arrived!
…Which makes this situation all the more baffling. Frankly, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE is a movie I’d be disappointed to know you rented, let alone starred in and executive produced(!!).
I think…that maybe…I don’t really want to know the answer.*sigh*
Considering that there was a Civil War movie with Robert E. Lee as the hero (GODS & GENERALS) released during Black History Month, I think I might have an answer as to reason BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE was released after…
1 out of 5 stars.