Worth A Look: 8.63%
Pretty Bad: 8.63%
Total Crap: 61.87%
5 reviews, 109 user ratings
|Bringing Down the House
by Erik Childress
Movies like Bringing Down the House separate the average moviegoer from the true idiots of the world. Even the average moviegoer has the smarts to occasionally dismiss the How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Kangaroo Jacks of the world. Movies like Bringing Down the House are the reason you have the option to walk out and get a refund. The problem is that you will never appreciate how bad this film is or fester in the leagues of human bowel movements from which it arose if you leave after a half-hour. It ranks among the most insultingly racist films ever made with nary a shred of comic possibility in sight and deserves to go down in history as one of the worst films ever made to find its way into a theatrical schedule. Movies like Bringing Down the House are the reason the rest of the world hates the United States.Forget about the goofy trailers you’ve been seeing or whatever smile you think this material could bring to your face and just read aloud the following synopsis. Steve Martin plays Peter Sanderson, a tax lawyer divorced from his wife, Kate (Jean Smart). As the film opens, he’s been playing You’ve Got Mail with internet presence “lawyer-girl” and sets up a meeting with whom he thinks is an attractive upper-class white woman. Of course, he didn’t look at that picture attachment close enough to see convicted felon, Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah) being stuffed into a police car in the background and is naturally taken aback when she arrives at his front door. “I hope you like cham...poo.” (This wordplay from bubbling alcohol to a foul smelling brown substance is more than just coincidence in this movie.)
"DO NOT Admit That You Like This Movie To Me"
Peter asks Charlene to leave, but she refuses until he helps to expunge her record. His rejection causes her to blackmail him and stage a scene on his front lawn about dumping a pregnant woman. This is an embarrassing enough feat, but couple that with Peter making sure that his racist neighbor (Betty White), who happens to be his boss’ sister, doesn’t hear or see her. More about her in a minute. Peter throws her out again in the morning and in the timespan it takes to pick up his estranged kids, Charlene has broken in and staged a house party consisting of what seems like hundreds of black friends. This is the second film in the last few months (Antwone Fisher) where a screenplay suggests that black people can gather in the hundreds at the drop of a hat. A neat trick in this movie considering that “negroes” aren’t likely allowed anywhere within a kiloton blast radius of these people.
Have I swayed off the synopsis? Absolutely not, because this is where the film takes us from here; repeated jokes about black people and other minorities (Martin imitates a Chinese person on the phone) while the central black figure is hidden from everyone else in the movie as if she were ALF. Betty White makes reference to never seeing Mexicans around without a leafblower, she hears people speaking “negro” outside and even tells Peter’s six-year son to get a new haircut because the one he has makes him “look like a fag.” Peter’s sister-in-law (Missi Pyle) mistakes Charlene for a waitress and calls her “Shaniqua” and “Jemima” in public. Charlene enters a clubhouse to the theme of “Jungle Love”, asks for hot wings and has dialogue like “we gonna play hide the sister or do I have to do that slave thing?”
For the penultimate coup de grace though, we have to watch Joan Plowright (Academy-award nominated actress once married to Laurence Olivier) singing a plantation song at the dinner table while Charlene “the nanny” serves. The fact that Peter has a black secretary at the end of the film can only suggest that the film has finally caught up to affirimitive action, although even that is a quantum leap considering how far back in the stone age this film puts race relations. This is family-friendly Disney PG-13 entertainment though, so no one even thinks to mutter the “N” word even though its what most of them are thinking.
Comedies involving jokes about race can be funny (1941) or satirically edgy (Bulworth). But when the fish in the fish-out-of-water situation is treated like it was plucked from the lake outside the nuclear power plant and the glofish shamelessly wrecks people’s lives, whom are we to root for? Blackmail, B&E and assault are enough to get anyone arrested on the spot especially in the vanilla world in which these characters live. The sad part is that some may view this film as progress. Not just a black female lead, but a plump one. Never mind that the film doesn’t even have the balls to follow through on a potential romance; leaving Peter to get back into the graces of his ex-wife and providing a sidekick (Eugene Levy) with a fetish for large black women.
As Queen Latifah is given an executive producer credit on the film, her involvement must have been at the early stages. How she was able to secure Steve Martin, one of the great humorists of all time and award-winning writer of screen, stage and books, gives “kill whitey” a whole new meaning. Someone out there MUST have looked at Jason Filardi’s screenplay and identified it as a new low in the written word. Ignore the Krappy Kream-filled Kommunity stuff for a minute and just treat it as an abomination in storytelling. Peter doesn’t want his son throwing dice with Charlene, but dealing cards for Betty White is acceptable. Peter struggles understanding Charlene’s slang (even in the final scene) but has no problem conversing in rap culture when he actually goes undercover as a white homey in a black club. And when all else fails, Filardi even stoops to throw in the good-ol-stand-by mistaken laxative joke. The dialogue even reeks of an amateur with a lobotomy.
As Peter talks about his daughter and Charlene notices her sneaking out with a boy:
“My daughter is going places.”
“Oh, she’s going places all right.”
As Peter’s ex-wife talks to her sister about him while he’s spotted dancing provocatively with Charlene:
“He was so moved by that song.”
“Oh he’s moving all right.”
As Peter is thanking Charlene at the end:
“Thanks for shaking things up around here.”
“Shaking is what I do best.”
All this incompetence is handled under the direction of one Adam Shankman, who previously gave us singer/actress Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner and singer/actress Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember. Inoffensive and just plain lame as those films were, the jump into complete ugliness is a leap that has eluded even the worst of the studio hacks. Take the bathroom sequence where Charlene and Ashley go womano-a-tae-bo on each other for a good five minutes. This isn’t just a comuppance, but a full-on street brawl that makes the criticized scene in The Cable Guy where Jim Carrey physically beats Owen Wilson appear like Zsa Zsa slapping the cop. Charlene also dispenses some Uncle Buck justice, A Fish Called Wanda-style when Peter’s daughter is taken advantage of at a party. The seriousness of the matter is reduced to a “get all up in that” moment of sharing between father and daughter. A character even takes a bullet point blank to the chest in the film’s climax. If you’re doing a critical checklist:
Screenplay – sucks. CHECK!
Performances – embarrassing. CHECK!
Offensive? – DOUBLE CHECK!!This is a movie for stupid ignorant white people. Be on the lookout for names on the film’s ads like David Sheehan, Jim Svejda and Clay Smith, because any critic who gives this film a positive review should be fired on the spot. If you’re not a critic and just a regular moviegoer, do yourself a favor and don’t admit that you like this movie in my presence, because I’ll kick you in the shins and spit on you. I’m ashamed that this movie exists, that people got paid for it and that someone out there will eventually add it to their DVD collection. I beg of you not to contribute to the $50 million payday this film is destined for and to cut off relations with those who do. You will not see a worse film than Bringing Down the House all year or next year or the year after that.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7139&reviewer=198
originally posted: 03/07/03 09:20:35