Bringing Down the House has its moments of humor despite a tired script
To be completely honest, I went into Bringing Down the House without the greatest expectations, to say the least. And for the first 10 minutes of the film, I was already sharpening my scalpel for a full-blown rant. Then something unexpected happened. I laughed, and then again. And then frequently throughout the rest of the movie. What the hell went wrong here?
First, it was directed by Adam Shankman, who I will forever bear a grudge against for unleashing the only two hours of atrocity I actively resent sitting through, The Wedding Planner. Also, it features Steve Martin, who hasn’t been amusing in years. Even worse, the plot hinges on a completely tired sitcom premise: Uptight divorced lawyer (Martin) meets seeming soul mate on an Internet chat line, only to find when she knocks on his door that she’s not the WASPish Ally McBeal lawyer she implied, but actually a bawdy escaped con (Queen Latifah) who wants him to clear her name. Along the way she teaches him how to loosen up, be a good father to his neglected children and re-win his ex-wife’s affections.
Not exactly the recipe for comedic genius … and it isn’t really. The script is lazy, the direction is pedestrian, and every white character but Martin, his family and Eugene Levy (as Martin’s coworker and lust puppy for Latifah) is an out-and-out racist cartoon. But despite that, perhaps only through the sheer force of will from the game cast (including Martin’s virago of a sister-in-law, who kicks down with Latifah with one of the funniest catfights in recent memory), Bringing Down the House actually manages to milk more than its share of laughs from the forced premise.
While nowhere near attaining the ranking of Martin’s better entries, this is still an amusing afternoon-waster.