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Bringing Down the House (2003)

PG-13 105 minutes

Directed by Adam Shankman
Written by Jason Filardi

 · Steve Martin
 · Queen Latifah

Review by Thom Stricklin

This is one of those comedies. You know the type. Sometimes a comedy will come out that you'll go and see, generally enjoy, but later wonder "What were they thinking?" In the case of Bringing Down the House, the answer is: "Not very much at all."




All that seemed to be on the writers' minds was getting Steve Martin to go "urban", act like a hoodlum and embarrass himself in front of black people. It's a shame, because with the story's setup, the characters' backgrounds and everything, there was easy potential for an intelligent comedy, something thought-provoking. One part less of 'P Diddy' Martin and a few parts of enlightening messages, ranging from old-generational racism to class interactions to problems with the legal system.

Alas, that wasn't the film made. In fact, Bringing Down the House seems somewhat insulting with its absense of purpose, of meaning. I'm not a civil rights crusader, though, so I won't digress. What I will say is this: If all they wanted to make was a dumb, fun comedy, they succeeded...




...but even still, their success is limited. In a room full of famous comedians--two, at least--the most enjoyable performance was given by the least tested yet ever-impressive Queen Latifah. Throughout the movie, she seems to be the only one who gets it: the potential, the purpose, that the rest of the crew can't see under her nose. She performs with such things in mind, and as a result, despite having fewer punchlines, outshines Martin and Levy.

Steve Martin... Should've retired after Three Amigos, or at least Father of the Bride pt. II. Is he less funny than he was twenty years ago? Perhaps not. But the material has run dry, and I think he might just be out of touch from what today's audiences consider funny.

Eugene Levy, on the other hand, is a treat. He's best in unconventional roles, like the father who walks in on his sons' coital adventures and proceeds sit down and tell stories. This is another such role. We're never revealed his character's motives--rather, how he actually has a clue to act and speak as he does--but we can endulge. It's just hilarious to watch a white guy with Groucho-brows slip into slang that most anyone, ebonic speakers included--would be too tactful to say in public.



This isn't Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? It's not even remotely close. The race card Bringing Down the House plays is merely a setting for an endless string of jokes, some funnier than others. The box office is still creeping out of its winter slumber, but even still you can find better things to see. Save this one for rental.

447 Words Published: 14 March 2003

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