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Bringing Down the House

Starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah; Jean Smart, Eugene Levy
Screenplay by Jason Filardi
Directed by Adam Shankman

screened at Loew's eWalk 42nd Street, NYC

IN SHORT: The wild and crazy guy goes to the 'hood . . . but left the jokes in his other suit. [Rated PG-13 for Language, Sexual Humor and Drug Content. minutes]

When making a pot of spaghetti, how do you know when the pasta is finished? Sure, you can bite into a piece but it's a lot more fun, not to mention classic, to do it the old way: throw it at the wall to see if it sticks. If it does, you're done. Bringing Down the House builds its story elements pretty much the same way. Act One is filled with all sorts of things thrown helter skelter at the audience and sometimes contradicted in Act Two. Whatever is necessary to keep a story moving and keep some tension in that story will be reconciled by the end of the Third Act. The writing is adequate but the humor is sorely lacking.

Which means if we tell you that successful tax lawyer Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) misses his ex-wife Kate (Jean Smart) and kidlets Georgey (Angus T. Jones) and Sarah (Kimberly J. Brown), well, you know. It isn't that Peter hasn't given up hope that he might find another Miss Right, indeed, he's been frequenting legal chat rooms on the 'net to try and find the perfect legal help mate. And, wouldn't you know it, LegalEagle has made the perfect match in LawyerGirl (Queen Latifah), thin and white and blonde, whose photo he carries in his pocket to prove to co-workers like Howie Rottman (Eugene Levy) that Internet dating is no joke (two... three... four...) The joke behind that photo proves to be the only clever idea in this movie, whose sole gag is the realization that black people talk different from white people. So, what would be funnier than to force a situation where ... if you know Steve Martin's comedy you know where this is going, too.

So now that the Eagle has fallen into the clutches of LawyerGirl -- not a lawyer but an ex-con who wants free lawyership to clear her name -- he's got no choice but to do her bidding to get her the hell out of his hair.

It's cute. Bringing Down the House isn't an unfunny dud but it is about as lightweight as comedy can get and still manage to yank a couple of chuckles out of your gullet. Thank whatever you thank for Betty White, who delivers some tiny, incredibly un-PC gags that got the biggest laughs in the film. Every once in a while Joan Plowright makes an appearance as the fabulously wealthy and equally old and stingy Mrs. Arness, who is being courted as a client. This provides what passes for a subplot and yet another you-can-see-it-coming-before-you-pay-for-the-ticket resolution.

You do get to see Lex Luthor in a toupee, though. If this film had been funny, we wouldn't have had time to make the connection between actor Michael Rosenbaum's two roles.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Bringing Down the House, he would have paid . . .


Bringing Down the House can pack every funny gag in its running time into a solitary thirty second commercial. Let's hope you don't see it before you rent.

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