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Bringing Down The House

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Judy Thorburn

"Bringing Down The House" - Brought Down By Offensive Racial Humor

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“BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE”  - BROUGHT DOWN BY OFFENSIVE RACIAL HUMOR

It never fails to amaze me how such talent can get themselves involved in such trash.  Seeing the trailers made me interested in how the mismatched twosome of Queen Latifah and Steve Martin would work.  It did look like a promising comedy.  But, in reality, sitting through Bringing Down The House was a major disappointment that made me uncomfortable and embarrassed at what I was witnessing on screen.  Did they not read the script?

Steve Martin plays Peter Sanderson a divorced high priced tax attorney who spends his lonely off hours in a computer chat room.  After much time communicating with so called “lawyer girl”, who he thinks is a thin blond, he arranges a date, only to discover the person behind the screen name is not what he expected.  What shows up at his door is a brassy, sassy black woman named Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah), a prison escapee who refuses to leave until he promises to help clear her name for a crime she says she didn’t commit.  She moves into his house and that’s when all hell breaks loose.  There are other characters and subplots to contend with.  Peter’s two children, the adorable Georgey (Angus T. Jones) and blossoming teenager, Sarah (Kimberly J. Brown) are connecting with Charlene, and Peter’s best friend and business partner, Howie (Eugene Levy) is smitten from first sight with Charlene, who he refers to as the “cocoa goddess”. Meanwhile, Peter is trying to secure a contract from billionaire heiress, Mrs. Arness (Joan Plowright) and the busybody neighbor, openly racist Mrs. Kline (Betty White) who happens to be Peter’s boss’s sister, is always nosing around. Adding to this crew is ex-wife Kate (Jean Smart), who shares custody of the children and still carries a torch for her ex, but is presently involved with a much younger stud.   Kate’s sister, Ashley (Missi Pyle) is also in the picture adding coal to the fire as a the nasty gold digger who latches on to sick old rich men, when she isn’t spewing sarcastic remarks towards Peter and Charlene.

There are some fairly amusing bits and the lady sitting next to me was roaring with laughter at almost every silly stunt. I suppose there is an audience for any humor, no matter how tasteless.  But, aside for those too few moments that hit my funny bone, Bringing Down The House relied on very offensive racial humor that was insulting and vulgar.  Queen Latifah is a natural, proving to be a screen actress of considerable charm and versatility. She does the best she can with this material, unevenly directed by Adam Shankman.  She and Missi Pyle managed to get a laugh out of me during their hair pulling, high flying catfight in the ladies room of a posh restaurant. But, I’d like to know how a newly escaped prisoner managed to possess some trendy clothes, hip jewelry, and hairpieces that make her look like a fashion model from Big and Beautiful magazine. After all, she’s supposed to be INNOCENT of armed robbery.

Steve Martin on the other hand, should have been smart enough to stay clear of this demeaning script.  He’s an extremely talented veteran who has been around long enough to see a disaster in the making. He was funny, decked out as an Eminem wannabe, all street talking jive and hip hop moves, as he worked his way through an African American nightclub. And, Betty White and the scene stealing Levy always lend strong support to a film.  But, the diarrhea gag, the slavery song sung by Mrs. Arness at dinner, and unfunny racist slurs throughout, just to name a few of the ugly elements, were enough to turn me off.

If the message is supposed to be a positive one, like how a distrusted stranger who comes into your life can make a difference - it’s nothing new that we haven’t seen.  This recycled premise is played out.  Bringing Down The House just takes that foundation and brings it to a new low – way, way down.

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