Thursday, November 17, 2016

Movie Review: "Bringing Down the House" (2003)

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Movie"Bringing Down the House"
Director: Adam Shankman
Year: 2003
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

A divorced tax attorney meets a woman in an online chatroom whom he believes to be a skinny blonde criminal lawyer. When he meets her in person, he finds out she is actually an ex-convict from the hood looking to have her record expunged and is in need of an attorney. He wants her gone as soon as possible, but she refuses to leave until he helps her with her case. 

"Bringing Down the House" is directed by Adam Shankman, who is known for films like "A Walk to Remember" and "The Pacifier." It stars Steve Martin as Peter Sanderson, who is a lonely, divorced tax attorney who has been chatting with a woman online who goes by the handle 'lawyer-girl.' When he meets lawyer-girl in real life, whose real name is Charlene, played by Queen Latifah, he is quickly put off by her being a larger, black convicted felon from the hood rather than the skinny, white, blonde suburban lawyer he assumed she was from her photo. Peter wants her gone, but she refuses to leave him alone until he helps her expunge her record after doing time for a crime she swears she didn't commit.

You know how sometimes you watch a movie as a kid and you think it's the funniest thing you've ever seen? I can distinctly remember really enjoying "Bringing Down the House" at some point in my youth, perhaps before I knew better. This is a culture clash comedy where a streetwise black woman is thrust into a situation with an bunch of oblivious, upper-class white racists. There is a lot of racist humor in this film that is meant to be used as a form of satire to show how disconnected wealthy white people are from what is deemed socially acceptable, but in all honesty, after the first joke about "darkies moving into the neighborhood," it starts to seem like low hanging fruit. Peter is so worried about what other people will think about him having a black woman living in his house, so he forces her to pose as a nanny. At the country club where Peter frequents, Charlene is constantly mistaken for a waitress. Of course, since she wants to get something out of it, to clear her name after going to jail for armed robbery when she swears she's innocent, she goes along with these horribly stereotypical happenings to a cringe-worthy degree. In the process of trying to clear her name, she commits numerous other crimes, including breaking and entering, trespassing, assault and battery, and kidnapping, just to name a few, all to prove she is not really a criminal.

Steve Martin has a few funny moments sprinkled throughout this film, but also some that are simply downright embarrassing, which we are noticing is a theme of his 2000's-era career choices. I've always personally liked Queen Latifah, but she doesn't always get the best roles. Her acting is fine in this movie, but we wonder if she looks back upon this career decision and is happy with it. Eugene Levy also plays a central role here as Peter's friend and work associate, who quickly falls for the alluring Charlene, telling here at every instance how he feels about her and how he'd like to spread her over a Ritz cracker, you know, normal courtship stuff.

"Bringing Down the House" tries to accomplish one thing by making the overtly racist nature of everything that goes on plot-wise be front and center in a "look how absurdly racist people can be!" sort of exposé, but more often than not, it simply feels racist for the sake of being racist. This is a film that in one moment will make you briefly laugh, and in another, will make you cringe so hard, you'll want to bury your face in multiple pillows.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 34%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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