MOVIE REVIEW: Bringing
Down the House
Martin, Latifah fail to Bring Down the House
Bringing Down the House
Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy
Directed by: Adam Shankman
By Pierre Hamilton
Bringing Down the House is a "fish out of water" comedy
that you'll want to cast back into the ocean.
Bringing is the newest incarnation of a long-running joke in
popular culture: the fish out of water scenario, or in this case, the
ghetto-girl-in-upper-middle-class-America film. From start to finish,
the film reaffirms every negative stereotype of African-Americans, while
also illustrating their positive attributes: their closeness with teenagers
and usefulness to hard-working white people who have forgotten how to
Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin), a 49-year-old divorced tax lawyer, mistakenly
thinks Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah), a convicted felon, is a white,
attractive lawyer. Howie Rosenthal (Eugene Levy) is Peter's Jewish sidekick
who's got a thing for Nubian goddesses.
When Charlene breaks out of jail to meet her online chat buddy (Martin),
Peter is forced into keeping her around after she threatens to alert his
employers and the exclusively "white" suburban neighborhood
of their non-existent love child. In the morning, he destroys all evidence
of their online discussions and escorts her out of his home.
When he returns home with his two kids, Charlene has thrown a block party
in his house and invited all the homeboys and girls for some gambling,
boozing and straight-up thugging. While Martin is having problems relating
to his kids, they quickly gravitate towards Latifah and the hood lifestyle.
Throughout the rest of the film, Latifah reprises the role of the lovable
black mammy in an attempt to reunite Martin and his estranged family.
The humour in this film (if you manage to laugh) will make you self-conscious
enough to look around the theatre to see who you're sitting beside. With
original Golden Girl Betty White delivering well-crafted dialogue like,
"I thought I heard some Negro" or telling Martin's son that
he should cut his hair because he looks like a "fag," the film
presents a continuous stream of racially and sexually-motivated humour.
In a scene better suited for women's wrestling, the script makes use of
kitschy pop culture references to Tae-Bo and The Matrix, as Charlene
squares off against Peter's narrow-minded sister-in-law, Ashley (Missi
Pyle), in the washroom of a posh golf club. A full-figured Charlene quickly
asserts her physical prowess over the skinny Ashley, who, in a later scene,
explains how she lives in fear of gang bangers.
Directed by Adam Shankman (The Wedding Planner), Bringing
is entertaining if only to see how Latifah, Martin and Levy play around
with the stereotypical images of whites and blacks in present-day America.
Martin is right on top of his game, especially when he ventures into the
dangerous nightclub "DownLo," where his performance as a "down"
b-boy will garner a free ghetto pass or leave him face down in the alleyway.
Levy steals almost every scene as he spits game in Ebonics, in an attempt
to court Charlene.
Latifah, recently nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in
Chicago, takes a step backwards with this role, which calls upon
her "extensive" knowledge of the ghetto and slave history. It's
funny, just not "ha ha" funny.
Bringing Down the House is a lacklustre film with a star-studded
cast a film rife with stereotypes and better set aside for one
of those Blockbuster nights. Leaving the movie theatre, you may feel the
familiar twinge of déja vu: this movie was better the first time when
it was called Houseguest and starred Phil Hartman and everybody's favourite