BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) is a divorced attorney who still loves his ex-wife and can’t figure out what he did wrong to make her leave him. Trying to move on, Peter meets ‘lawyer-girl’ on the internet, but she turns out to be a surprise package called Charlene (Queen Latifah), a prison escapee who’s proclaiming her innocence and wants Peter to help clear her name. Peter wants nothing to do with her, prompting the loud and shocking Charlene to turn Peter’s perfectly ordered life upside down, jeopardizing his effort to get back with his wife and woo a billion dollar client (Joan Plowright).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Steve Martin might get you into the cinema for this ho-hum comedy, but even his towering talents won’t keep you from squirming in your seat and looking at your watch. Assembled like a Lego set with various useful parts, all according to the instruction manual of commercial Hollywood comedy making, the film is too one dimensional for Martin and the script too predictable and patchy for audiences. As a fan of Queen Latifah it pains me to say she’s wasted in this role; not because she’s no good, but because she really too good. And we don't even get to see her sing to make up for it. She has a fabulous wardrobe (and lots of it) and her character is great fun, but the script wastes her with a storyline that meanders in and out of focus and ends up being silly. The comedic styles likewise buzz about between understated English character gags (thanks Joan Plowright) to overworked fish out of water routines involving Charlene. There are a few chuckles and the film’s tone is amusing, but this is only recommended if you have seen everything else in the cinemas and can’t think of anything else to do for 100 minutes.
Review by Louise Keller:
A cross between You’ve Got Mail and Housesitter, Bringing Down the House is an escapist comedy with a few priceless moments, but just too few. Much of the script is disjointed nonsense and the storyline doesn’t quite gel. Nevertheless, I did enjoy watching Steve Martin’s madcap delivery, and although much of Queen Latifah’s character is half baked, her performance is wonderful. These two are pros with impeccable comic timing and even when the situation is totally unbelievable, they somehow make it worth watching. Jason Filardi’s script is a mix of great off-the-wall ideas that are often thrown together for laughs, rather than any regard for a good storyline with funny ramifications. Joan Plowright’s straight-laced eccentric millionaire client with the French bulldog is a delight; so is the rap music club scene when she gets stoned. But you won’t be able to keep your eyes off William, who wears an Elizabethan collar (for his namesake Shakespeare) when out and about, or a sunshade when on the golf course. Eugene Levy’s presence is quirky as usual, but his character is underused and the romance between his Howie and Charlene isn’t at all believable. There’s more chemistry between Charlene and Peter; it’s as though the filmmakers are keen to tie up the storyline neatly and pair everyone off, even if they don’t actually suit each other. Much of the fun comes from watching the scene-stealing Latifah, who bumps and grinds, schmoozes and weedles, and generally effervesces like a huge bubbly dose of Berocca. (Listen for her rap song Do Your Thing, which has as much energy and oomph as the diva herself). What a great wardrobe for an ex-felon with nought but a small cloth bag to carry her possessions! She dazzles in every scene and every time we see her, she sports different hair – from short afro, to long and wispy, sleek and long, short and funky. Her eye-popping figure is a sight to behold, and Latifah uses every inch of her ample frame to best advantage: it takes quite a bosom to be able to conceal a mobile phone without it being discovered! There are one liners, racist references (wait until you see Latifah pretending to be a maid from the South), some slapstick and plenty of showy business. It may not be the hilarious outing it aspires to be, but it’s a reasonable dose of fun. Especially if you like Martin and Latifah.
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BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE (M)
CAST: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Jean Smart
PRODUCER: Ashok Amritraj, David Hoberman
DIRECTOR: Adam Shankman
SCRIPT: Jason Filardi
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Julio Macat
EDITOR: Jerry Greenberg
MUSIC: Lalo Schifrin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Linda DeScenna
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 3, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
VIDEO RELEASE: December 10, 2003