2000; Rated PG-13; 98 Minutes
Martin Lawrence: Malcolm
Nia Long: Sherry
Paul Giamatti: John
Jascha Washington: Trent
Terrence Howard: Lester
Anthony Anderson: Nolan
Ella Mitchell: Big Momma
Carl Wright: Ben
Produced by Peaches Davis, David T. Friendly, Michael
Green, Jeff Kwatinetz, Martin Lawrence, Rodney M. Liber,
Arnon Milchan; Directed by Raja Gosnell; Screenwritten
by Darryl Quarles and Don Rhymer
by DAVID KEYES
Momma’s House” makes a severe error in judgment by assuming
that, when slim men dress in drag in comedies, playing overweight
women in their twilight years is the compulsory approach.
This plunge has already seen more than its fair share of
interpretations in the cinema, and as such, has become a
tired and clichéd instrument of movie making. The idea was
most recently milked to death by comedies such as “Mrs.
Doubtfire” and “The Nutty Professor,” but those films, at
least, are ambitious in certain ways. The filmmakers behind
“Big Momma’s House” seem to only have one desire in mind:
to trap an actor in an oversized body suit, have him wander
around and, ever so often, shout out insipid dialogue to
see if moviegoers’ interest will last long in the less-than-amusing
the movie beats a dead horse in more ways than one. Aside
from being undermined by a limp and dreary formula, “Big
Momma’s House” also fails to realize that its star, Martin
Lawrence, has been successfully seen in drag already (his
admirers will recall the “Shenanay” persona from his Fox
sitcom “Martin”). One essential factor in these movies is
to be startled by the unlikely transformations, but thanks
to Lawrence’s experience in the field (not to mention the
overblown media exposure of the complex metamorphosis),
the film lacks its ambush. Furthermore, the overall execution
is neither funny nor stimulating.
plays Malcolm Turner, an FBI agent on the hunt of an escape
convict known infamously for bank robberies and homicide.
One of the convict’s potential contacts is his ex-girlfriend,
the beautiful Sherry, and Malcolm and his partner are sent
to keep an eye on the house of her grandmother, Hallie (also
known as Big Momma), hoping that the endangered young woman
will show up. But Big Momma goes on a trip and Sherry calls
up to tell her that she’s on her way to the house. The solution:
since Malcolm has experience with makeup, he decides to
dive into the pool of risks and assume the role of the girl’s
consistent problem with most setups of this nature is that
they require their characters to be easily fooled by an
evident disguise, and “Big Momma’s House” is no exception.
The thickness of Sherry’s relationship with her grandmother
is evident, and yet she is never once convinced that Big
Momma looks or acts differently than before. Lawrence can
indeed pass off as an old woman, but he shares little similarity
to the authentic Big Momma played by Ella Mitchell, leaving
many to question the intelligence of the grandmother’s neighbors
and family members. It’s almost like seeing someone get
cosmetic surgery and no one in the family or neighborhood
is bright, or observant, enough to notice the changes.
comic tones are no more pleasant; in fact, when the laughs
are not stupid, they are simply grotesque and reprehensible.
I am not trying to discredit bad taste in general, because,
lets face it, comedies like “There’s Something About Mary”
and “American Pie” are skillful enough to make big laughs
out of gross scenarios. In “Big Momma’s House,” however,
the tastelessness is so intense that we are left staring
in utter displeasure. At one point, Big Momma even suffers
from diarrhea, allowing the director to get all sorts of
nasty sounds and sights out of the experience in a bathroom.
Funny? More like sickening.
Lawrence doesn’t seem to function well as an actor unless
he is in disguise (even his snaggle-toothed second persona
in “Blue Streak” was amusing), but the task of pulling of
the Big Momma masquerade is obviously too much for him to
handle. He never once looks comfortable in the role—only
the scenes when he is outside the makeup and the latex is
he okay. A note to filmmakers: take this as evidence that,
if you’re going to have a person play an overweight woman,
make sure the actor fits the physique. While you’re at it,
throw some decent and intelligent comedy into the mix instead
of scenes in which Big Momma has bathroom problems.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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