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Bringing Down
The House

Finally, we have a comedy of the type long since forgotten, where you can poke fun at stereotypes without being foul-mouthed. It's racy (not racist), but not foul-mouthed. In another rarity, not all the funny scenes got crammed into the trailer. Bringing Down The House is funnier and better than it looks.

Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) has just split up with his wife Kate (Jean Smart) and has found a friend or nemesis in Charlene, who he met on the Internet.

Little does Peter know that Charlene is not the woman he expected her to be. Instead of a fellow lawyer, she turns out to be an ex-con and Queen Latifah. She tries to get Peter to help her expunge her record, and start life with a clean slate. Unfortunately for him, Charlene will not take no for an answer. Instead, she threatens to make Peter's life hell, and for Peter, "…fun is hell."

Almost everything that happens at the beginning is totally expected, yet still manages to be funny. Though a few harsh racial remarks and scenes exist, the laughter outweighs the gasps of surprise. At least, you hope this isn't a reflection of reality.

Steve Martin leads the way, clowning in a role much like Father of the Bride. Juggling moping about his ex-wife, the struggle to make up time with his kids, a multi-millionairess he is trying to impress, and trying to get rid of Charlene, Peter comes across as a put-upon shlub we still root for. And he still manages to get ghetto and play the additional cool boy in the hood. Sort of.

As Peter's best friend, Eugene Levy is nothing short of hysterical when trying to seduce Latifah with hip-talk. Unfortunately for the veteran comics, Latifah steals most of the show once she steps onto the screen.

Whether it's her sharp intellect, naughty nature, or sweet personality, all of it plays well against the rest of the cast.

Unfortunately, the film underuses Betty White. For the Fanboy Planet connection, Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum makes an appearance in the movie also, but should probably keep the bald look. He doesn't quite pull off a goofy bad guy. Oh, to be typecast so young…

On the whole, Bringing Down The House does fall a little short. Stereotyping the uptight rich American elite as racists leaves Martin's character as apparently the only one with a conscience, or perhaps he's meant to be an average Joe that happens to be really smart and have a lot of money.

The story also makes an odd intro with the two on the chat room. It felt like they were talking for several weeks, if not months, instead of the few days the plot claims. This plays out later when authorities come looking for Charlene. Her boyfriend's take on the situation and how it all comes together in the end doesn't quite fit in the grand scheme of things, really undermining the punch this movie needed to make it memorable for more than the ride home.

The funny thing is they kept talking about Charlene's case almost to remind us it's still there lingering in the subplot somewhere. Maybe I was too busy thinking of all the other stuff that it didn't register, and that could be a plus.

What's It Worth? $6

Mish'al Samman

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