Bringing Down the House

Rated 1.0 A straight-laced lawyer (Steve Martin) makes a date with a flirtatious woman he meets in a chat room, who turns out to be a streetwise ex-con sistah (Queen Latifah). Written by Jason Filardi and directed by Adam Shankman, this is quite an achievement: It takes Martin and Latifah; adds Eugene Levy, Jean Smart, Steve Harris, Missi Pyle, Betty White and poor old Joan Plowright; gives them a half-baked plot, coarse dialogue and demeaning Jim Crow racial “humor”; and then sees to it that every one of them gives just about the worst performance of his or her career. Martin and Latifah have a nice rapport, and their comic rhythms blend in unexpected ways, but they never get more than a minute to riff together before Filardi and Shankman humiliate them again with some fresh vulgarity. A tawdry waste all around.