Um, excuse me ... when we
signed on for this film, weren't
we told that it would actually
Bringing Down the House
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Is there an American Idol for screenwriters? I'm not up on my "reality" TV shows, but I have been noticing film after film written by some guy or girl who has no other movie to his or her credit. It's not that I'm against bringing new talent into Hollywood, but so far the "talent" part of the "new" equation hasn't happened.
Jason Filardi, the writer of Bringing Down the House, and the latest in a screenwriting sea of freshman ineptitude, has created one of the most laughably bad comedies this side of The Sweetest Thing; and none of the juvenile and racist jokes he throws in can save it. Filardi has managed to create a sort of bizarro world that would stink of racism as far back as the 1960s.
In Bringing Down the House, Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) works at a law firm that appears to be segregated, attends a country club so uppity that his intrusive African American "friend," Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah) has to pretend that she's a nanny just to avoid trouble, and has a client who is the heiress to her husband's large fortune, who is such a bigot that she starts belting out an odious plantation song at the dinner table where she's being waited on by Charlene, who's still pretending to be a nanny and maid. Last, but definitely not least, is Sanderson's nosy neighbor, Mrs. Kline (Betty White). The woman is so prejudice that Sanderson, obviously not one willing or able to stand up for himself, hides Charlene when he sees Kline, to avoid any confrontation with his misguided neighbor. As they sneak the concealed Charlene into Sanderson's home, Mrs. Kline tells Sanderson that she thought she "heard negro," and he denies this by claiming that there's, "no negro here."
Are you laughing yet?
The fact that Queen Latifah would even act in this picture, much less act as one of its executive producers, boggles the mind. Maybe next she'll play Aunt Jemima in a series of ads for maple syrup. And how low will the once great Steve Martin go to save his dying career? If this racist little "comedy" makes a splash, maybe next we'll see him as a white businessman in a comedy musical version of Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored. Eugene Levy has only a small part as Sanderson's partner in law, but, as he does with most films that he's featured in, manages to steal the show. Unfortunately, the only reason he steals this one is by delivering his stereotypical lines better than the rest of the cast. Maybe as a follow-up to this flick, he and Martin can put on some blackface and appear in an updated version of Amos 'n' Andy.
The fact that Bringing Down the House was even greenlighted sets the civil rights movement back 30 years. This film is offensive from start to finish. When it tries to tidy things up at the end, showing that we can all get along, as long as we all have a little marijuana, it ends up digging its hole even deeper by pigeonholing every featured ethnicity into nifty packages. By the time it's all over, this film borders on being as offensive and misguided as a slapstick version of Roots.
Intentional, or not, Bringing Down the House is a racist movie. It's also poorly filmed, completely predictable and entirely unfunny. There is nothing new in the picture, and no reason anyone would have to attend a screening of the movie. Steve Martin plays what is essentially the same part that he's been playing for the past decade. Queen Latifah again proves herself as an actress with great comedic chops, but why not go see the far superior Chicago, if you really want to know how good this talented lady can actually get? Eugene Levy yanks a few guilty laughs out of the audience, but he's doing nothing more than recreating "Jim's Dad" from the American Pie movies, with a thing for voluptuous black women.
Putting the movie's racism aside, Bringing Down the House is still directed by the guy who brought you The Wedding Planner, and, unless you actually found that film to be a laugh riot, you'll be disappointed with the comic material in this one. I seriously doubt anyone involved with this movie intended it to come off as biased as it does. I'm sure this was a good idea on paper. A potential laugh riot. It's just too bad that everyone involved was too busy laughing at the premise to notice that they were inadvertently making a film that would most likely only play well at a KKK rally.
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Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].