Charlene and Peter decide to meet in person, but Peter’s in for a big surprise. Rather than being a conservative blonde woman like he expects, Charlene is a large black woman who’s an ex-convict. Peter is instantly disinterested in her and tries to get rid of her, but Charlene wants him to help her clear her name. Charlene insists she didn’t do the crime she was convicted of and Peter is her only hope in setting the record straight. She won’t take no for an answer.
Since Peter is trying to close a multi-billion dollar deal with old, conservative Mrs. Arness, he is concerned that Charlene will cause problems. He agrees to help her out in order to keep her out of the way. What follows is a clash of cultures as Peter’s neighbors, kids, and co-workers get to know the boisterous and mysterious Charlene. Of course everything that could go wrong does go wrong.
“Bringing Down the House” is rated PG-13 for language, sexual humor and drug material.
Steve Martin returns in top form. This is one of his funniest performances in a long time. His character transforms from an uptight conservative lawyer to an undercover dancing brother. His change is so funny that it makes this easily one of his most memorable characters.
Queen Latifah is absolutely hilarious as well. She really keeps the movie rolling along and is the perfect co-star for Martin. The two play off of each other really well and it appears they had quite a bit of fun ad-libbing. (I imagine this will be a fun DVD with all the outtakes they must have.) Latifah plays Charlene with just the right mix of sincerity and outrageousness that it makes her lovable. Latifah also has one of the funniest fight scenes of the year. A catfight between her and a white girl brought many people in the theater to tears simply because it comes so far out of left field.
Eugene Levy steals every scene he’s in as Howie Rosenthal, Steve Martin’s co-worker who has a thing for large black women. His pick-up lines and slang are so unexpected and funny, especially considering whom they are coming from. Levy also plays well off of Queen Latifah.
The rest of the supporting cast does a great job, too. Betty White is really funny as the racist neighbor of Steve Martin. She somehow manages to say the worst possible thing at the worst possible time. Her character builds up to a single joke that got one of the biggest laughs of the entire film. Joan Plowright is also hilarious as Mrs. Arness, the rich heiress who has an incredibly amusing change of character by the end of the movie. I can’t get into details, but she gets some of the biggest laughs towards the end of the story. Jean Smart is also wonderful as Kate Sanderson, Martin’s ex-wife. Her reactions to Charlene are really fun and her character gets a lot more attention than you’d otherwise expect.
I should also mention that the music chosen for this film was perfect. Watching Eugene Levy drool over Queen Latifah to the tune of “Jungle Love” is just hilarious.
Overall this movie was incredibly funny and it gave me some of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a long time. I recommend you check this one out.
What Didn’t Work:
My other gripe is that Michael Rosenbaum is under-used as the young cutthroat Todd Gendler. I think he’s a great comic actor and the few scenes he had in this movie were some of the weakest of the story. Fans of Lex Luthor may be disappointed.
Overall, though, these are pretty minor gripes. I think you’ll get a big kick out of “Bringing Down the House”.