Worth A Look: 8.63%
Pretty Bad: 8.63%
Total Crap: 61.87%
5 reviews, 109 user ratings
|Bringing Down the House
by MP Bartley
Yeah, damn you all who visit this website. It's for your reason that we critics have to physically force ourselves to sit though car wrecks such as this, films where we'd quite honestly have nails forced underneath our fingernails. Where we'd rather snort a litre of tabasco sauce. Where we'd rather gouge our own eyes out with a spoon, fry them and feed them to ourselves. Yes, damn you all for making me endure this cinematic horror. I hope you're happy.Steve Martin is Peter Banks, a successful lawyer but divorced and sees his kids only on weekends. He sets up an internet date with who he hopes is also an attractive, single female lawyer. Except when she turns up at his house she isn't. She's Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah) a criminal, who blackmails Peter into proving her innocence.
"Damn you all!"
Ok, so who do you have sympathy for? The basically decent, career-minded, family man, just looking to alleviate his loneliness, or the loud-mouthed, violent criminal who blackmails him into taking her in by screaming she's pregnant with his baby on the streets?
Ok, I've taken down your answer and congratulations you're in 99% of the majority. Guess which answer the movie chooses.
That's right, we're supposed to root for Charlene. Why? Presumably because she's black, and in Hollywood, black = wacky/impoverished or both. What a lovely view that is to take. And if you think that's racist, hey, don't worry there's LOADS of racist people in here!
Betty White, Martin's neighbour asks him if there's any negros about because she's sure she heard one. Martins sister-in-law makes a Jemima joke. A junior associate makes a jungle fever remark later on. And when Charlene forces Peter to hang up the phone when he's about to speak to the police, he jabbers in Chinese instead. He doesn't simply hang up, or say he called the wrong number, he makes a casually racist remark. One that doesn't come back to haunt him by the way. But that's ok, because hey, Chinese people aren't in this movie and aren't as wacky as black people!
Is racism funny? No, but highlighting the ignorance behind it is, with intelligence. However, this was best done in the 1970's with the likes of 'Blazing Saddles'. Haven't we got over that by now? It's a sad, sad sign of the world we live in, when we're supposed to snigger at the 'shocking' use of the word negro. We simply can't have the notion of black people actually being, well, equal, can we? Certainly not in 21st century Hollywood, where a black person is still the butt of a joke apparently. By the way, thanks Latifah for PRODUCING this abomination. You truly are a 'sister'.
But there is no intelligence behind 'Bringing Down The House', not a smidgen of it. I could go on for hours about what's wrong with this film. It's not being 'daring' or 'provocative' by using casual racism as a joke, it's being idiotic. And not idiotic as in the simple charms of 'Dumb and Dumber', idiotic as in 'retarded'. Look! There's a white character talking in black jive! That means we're being ironic about it! No, patronising is the word we're looking for. There's no other way of describing an uptight middle-class character of wanting to 'go native' to have some fun. Because didn't you know that all us white folk need to do to have fun, is to have black criminals break into our house and organise a BBQ? All black people just sit around waiting for a party to start by the way. They have no jobs you see.
And if all else fails, just fall back on 'the-laxative-in-the-dinner-trick'. Because...that's FUNNY, RIGHT?!Especially when, oh stop me, you're going to die here...especially when it...GOES TO THE WRONG PERSON!!!!!!!
There's not even a half-decent performance to make any of this wretched mess salvageable. Martin should hang his head in shame and hope that we all forgive him one day. Eugene Levy and Joan Plowright (as an old lady who gets stoned at the end by -hey!- a black person. Only black people take drugs you see. White people who do, just fall over and make fools of themselves. Black people don't because they must take LOADS of drugs seeing as how they're all criminals and jobless an' all) must have been blackmailed, like Peter, into appearing in this drivel.
And Latifah? I don't think it's any exaggeration to say this is the worst performance I've ever seen anyone give. Look at the scene where Peter first throws her out. She screws her face up and stomps off to scream on the street outside. It's an astonishingly bad moment, like a 7 year old in a McDonalds advert. Then the scene where she tracks Peter down to a fancy restaurant and shouts things like "Hot wings! My ass be lookin' mean?". It's so bad I wanted to shoot her in the face and then turn it on myself just so I didn't have to even look at her anymore. And the (pretty nasty) fight between her and Peter's sister-in-law? Horribly out of place, horribly out of tone, horribly out of control, horribly acted. Pretty much sums up the film.
Perhaps the worst moment (and in one way, the funniest) is when it trys to turn itself into a thriller in the final 10 minutes. Let me ask you another question: if you shot a handgun with bullets made of metal, at a mobile phone made of plastic, what do you think would happen?
Let me repeat: METAL. SHOT AT. PLASTIC.
Would it a) shatter the phone into pieces, killing the person who has it above their chest instantly, or
b)lodge in the phone with no other damage.
Pick your answer. Then try and guess the films answer.When people criticise comedys in particular, the usual rebuke is "oh lighen up! It's just a comedy, meant to be FUN!!!". Ok, I have lightened up. I didn't laugh once. I didn't smile, I didn't chuckle, I didn't grin. So as a comedy it's dead on arrival. As a film it's an insulting, squalid, horrible, horrible piece of work. The girl I was going out with at the time wanted to see this. We no longer go out. The two events may be related.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7139&reviewer=293
originally posted: 11/21/03 04:00:17