Bringing Down the House

In recent years, Steve Martin has been accused of loosing the comedic genius that he displayed in his earlier films such as The Jerk, The Man With Two Brains and ¡The Three Amigos!

His latest offering is a family pleasing film which by all extents should just be a situation-driven film that just doesn’t work as the concept is the same old cheap one based on cultural differences.

Divorced white lawyer Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) has been chatting to fellow lawyer, dubbed Lawyer Girl, over a period of time in an internet chat room. Eventually the two arrange to meet and to Peter’s horror instead of a sophisticated white lawyer, a black boisterous ex-con Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah) arrives at his door.

Charlene claims she was framed and needs Peter’s help to expunge her record and clear her name. Peter reluctantly agrees realising that it’s probably the only way that he is going to get her out of his house and his life.

Things become more complicated when Peter’s ex-wife agrees to let Peter have their two children for a week. Added to this, Peter’s bigoted and racist neighbour (Betty White) is snooping around after seeing Charlene and at work Peter is desperately trying to secure an extremely wealthy but also extremely bigoted client Mrs Arness (Joan Plowright).

Spending his time between trying to look after his kids, securing the big account from Mrs Arness, avoiding his neighbours and trying to prove Charlene’s innocence, Peter also has to deal with the fact that his ex-wife (and others) believe that Charlene is his new woman. Luckily his best friend and co-worker Howie (Eugene Levy) is there to lend a hand, assuming that he’s not constantly trying to hook up with Charlene.

Bringing Down The House is the funniest film from Steve Martin in a while and no small amount of credit goes to the other players in what is definitely an ensemble piece. All the actors keep the movie moving at a lively pace. Director Adam Shankman does the most sensible thing and just lets everyone get on with it.

The performances are good from everyone. Steve Martin is in his usual territory and wears the role of Peter like a suit. Queen Latifah is superb as Charlene and plays the role with complete screen charisma, charm and attitude and plenty of self-confidant assuredness to boot. She manages to dominate the film for the most part.

The ever dependable Eugene Levy is superb as a middle-aged white nerd Howie and to hear him putting down some out-of-context jive talk to Charlene is one of the highlights. He definitely has the best lines and delivers dialogue such as “You got me straight trippin’ Boo” and “Shake it you cocoa goddess!” He plays the role with the same enthusiasm as he does Jim’s Dad in the American Pie films.

There are some very racist characters in the film such as those played by Joan Plowright and Betty White. At one point Joan Plowright bursts into a horrendously racist song that slaves sung when they worked in the plantations, but as this is a light-hearted film, by the end she’s hanging out with the hommies, drinking and taking hits from the blunt.

There are a few jokes that could be taken to be offensive but for the whole Bringing Down The House is entertaining enough and manages to hit an edginess which is lacking from so many films nowadays – even if it does have Steve Martin dressed a street-wise youngster bopping to a funky beat.

Score 7/10