Bringing Down The House

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Review byMatthew Turner29/05/2003

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Occasionally misjudged cross-cultural mismatch comedy that isn’t as funny as it thinks it is – just about worth watching for Latifah’s star quality and Eugene Levy’s impressive scene-stealing skills.

Once upon a time, Steve Martin was A Very Funny Man indeed. Sadly, it’s beginning to look like nothing he does will ever recapture the giddy heights of The Jerk, The Man With Two Brains or Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. His latest venture –a surprisingly big hit in the States- pairs him with Queen Latifah (hot off her Oscar nomination) in the hopes that Comedy Hi-Jinks will ensue. They don’t.

Lawyer vs. Lawyergirl

Martin stars as Peter Sanderson, a recently divorced, uptight lawyer (is there any other kind?), who, feeling lonely, embarks on an internet relationship with “lawyergirl”, who he thinks is a slim, beautiful blonde. So imagine his surprise when his doorbell rings and it turns out “lawyergirl” is Charlene (Queen Latifah), a large, sassy, street-talkin’ black woman and a recently-escaped convict to boot.

Despite Peter’s attempts to get rid of her, Charlene imposes herself on his life, demanding that he help her overturn her conviction. And in return she “teaches him about life”, hence the poster’s amusing tag-line “Everything he needed to know about life…she learned in prison”.

Undeniable Chemistry

Unfortunately, although the odd scene raises a chuckle and Martin and Latifah have undeniable chemistry together, a lot of the humour relies on unfunny and frequently uncomfortable humour, such as Betty White’s bigoted neighbour. Occasionally, the humour is spectacularly misjudged, such as in the scene where Charlene is posing as a nanny and has to listen to Peter’s rich client Joan Plowright sing “Is Massa Gonna Sell Me Tomorrow?”

However, the film is just about watchable, largely thanks to the efforts of scene-stealing maestro Eugene Levy (Jim’s Dad, American Pie) who develops a huge crush on Charlene and starts wooing her with street talk (“You got me straight trippin’, boo”). Latifah herself is a veritable force of nature and delivers an impressively sexy performance, though she has to shoulder the blame for some of the awful jokes, as she executive produced the film and approved each gag personally.


Martin isn’t bad - he’s largely in the straight role but does get the opportunity for some physical comedy too. There’s also good support from Jean Smart (Frasier) as his ex-wife and Missy Pyle as his bitchy ex-sister-in-law.

The film has one or two nice touches (the details of her prison-break being obscured in incomprehensible street language; an impressively brutal fight scene) but unfortunately, the cringe-worthiness of some of the worst jokes for the most part outweighs the passable ones.

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Content updated: 22/07/2018 03:18

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