Main cast: Steve Martin (Peter Sanderson), Queen Latifah (Charlene Morton), Eugene Levy (Howie Rottman), Joan Plowright (Mrs Arness), Jean Smart (Kate Sanderson), Kimberly J Brown (Sarah Sanderson), and Angus T Jones (Georgey Sanderson)
Director: Adam Shankman
Chalk me up as shallow, but I cannot stand watching Steve Martin. He looks like a smarmy, middle-aged Ken doll with plastic fake hair and face that seems to be made out of plastic. Still, he’s not too bad here in Bringing Down the House – they could do worse and hire Leslie Nielsen, for example, to play lawyer Peter Sanderson.
Pete’s marriage went down the drain because he is too busy with his work. He isn’t too busy to cyber flirt with Charlene who asks him for legal advice though. What a surprise when they meet and he realizes that Charlene is a big, loud woman who claims to be an ex-con and who needs his help in clearing her name. He refuses, she keeps coming back, until finally he caves in and agrees after she gets drunk and helps him express his pent-up emotions towards his ex. See, in normal movies, this would lead to these two having wild uninhibited sex, but in this movie, it leads to Pete seeing the light instead. That’s Hollywood for you.
The movie has fun skewering racial prejudices and stereotypes in the first half, but it soon deteriorates into a sappy movie about how the African-American Nanny Fixes Everything Right. Charlene gives good relationship advice, Charlene helps confused and rebellious teenagers see sense, Charlene mends a broken marriage, Charlene throws parties for her Sisters and Brothers to make a point about Equality! In trying to make a politically correct statement, this movie comes close to being a stereotype of the Noble African American Fix-It-All movie. More disappointingly, the relationship between Charlene and Peter’s besotted partner Howie is played for laughs. Eugene Levy’s deadpan comedy style is on the spot as always, but a part of me wonders: is it so funny and incomprehensible that a man would find Queen Latifah’s generous curves attractive?
Starting strong and ending in a saccharine-breathed whimper, Bringing Down the House is a big disappointment. Queen Latifah and Steve Martin display great chemistry and comedic timing together, it’s too bad the script tries to whitewash all traces of character from them and from the story.