Big Momma's House (2000) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 or crude humor, brief nudity, sexual innuendo, language and some violence
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Jascha Washington, Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Ella Mitchell, Carl Wright, Cedric the Entertainer
Director: Raja Gosnell
Screenplay: Darryl Quarles, Don Rhymer
"I've seen a lot of scary shit in my days, but damn that was a lot of ass!"
Martin Lawrence utters this during one of the few funny moments of the film. Ironically, that quote is also a perfect summation of this crass, insipid movie.
This wholly contrived comedy casts Lawrence (Blue Streak, Life) as slick FBI agent Malcolm Turner, a man of many talents, including being a fantastic make-up artist that can almost literally look like just about anyone. Malcolm's latest case takes him down South, where he is to apprehend a notorious criminal named Lester (Howard, Hart's War). On a tip that Lester's girlfriend Sherry (Long, Boiler Room) is planning a visit to her grandmother Hattie Mae's house, Malcolm and his partner John (Giamatti, The Negotiator) stake the place out, only to find that Hattie Mae is leaving town. Desperate for information from Sherry, Malcolm decides to make himself up as Hattie Mae (aka Big Momma), although things get complicated when he finds out that Sherry is an attractive woman that he wouldn't mind pursuing.
Sitcom antics are the main attraction here, as we watch Martin Lawrence go through predictable motions, traversing through nearly every "man in disguise" cliché in the book. It's a given in these types of films that a straight man in drag will inevitably fall for a woman, except that he cannot reveal his love without giving up his identity, and when that happens, she has a hard time forgiving him without him jumping through hurdles to win her back. Things play out according to game plan precisely, and the only amusement to be had comes in manner of the performers, rather than in the comedy of the situation.
Although this is one of those go-with-the-flow kind of movies, where we must suspend our disbelief for the sake of some good chuckles, Big Momma's House is surprisingly mild in the laughs department. Lawrence does what he can to make his character(s) appealing, but the skimpiness of the material, which is one-joke at best, doesn't really allow for anything but "so stupid, it's funny" caliber humor. Inevitably, the stupidity factor overtakes the fun in this misfire.
Fans of Lawrence, and of dumb comedies in general, will probably find amusement in one of his more ambitious roles as a comedic actor. All other viewers will be wishing this fat lady will sing long before the closing credits finally arrive.
©2006 Vince Leo