Thursday, May 20, 2010

DVD Spotlight: Bringing Down the House, can't you color me blind?

Image courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment and downloaded here:

I've been on a Steve Martin kick ever since watching "It's Complicated", so I decided to try something from the not-too-distant past: the 2003 comedy "Bringing Down the House" by Touchstone Pictures.

Being someone who likes Queen Latifah and Steve Martin, it seemed like an odd combination but possibly one of those unlikely sparks that will make a film something special.

Well homeslices, this film didn't quite shizzle my nizzle, dig?

It wasn't an awful movie but that's not to say it was a good movie either. The amount of incredibly outdated racial jokes were pretty shocking, considering this movie was filmed in 2003 - not exactly ancient history. It simultaneously manages to offend both black people and white people: the black community is a bunch of partying, drinking convicts and the whites are all country club racist yuppies. Though this particular vein of the film is thin and manages to be tempered by Queen Latifah's good nature and the presence of a budding mixed race romance - it still exists.

There are some fun moments, mostly supplied by Latifah, who plays Charlene, a smart savvy woman who breaks out of jail after doin' time for a crime she didn't commit. When she shows up at Peter's Sanderson's (Steve Martin) door, who had been IMing her sight unseen and thinks a romance is about to begin, he doesn't even try for one second to reconcile the woman he met online to the woman at his doorstep.

Sweet, funny Steve sadly gets absolutely nothing to do with his bland as unbuttered toast role as Peter. He's the straight man while Charlene runs the show, which is fine if you like Latifah, as I do, but not so much if you are hoping for a balanced chemistry between the actors. In fact, beyond a small, almost indiscernible spark of mild respect for one another, you wonder how on earth these two ever hit it off in the first place online. Eugene Levy as Howie is brilliant and though he gets less screen time than Peter, he steals every scene he's in as the love-struck stuffed shirt who thinks of Charlene as a "Coco goddess." In fact, I wonder if it would've been a better film if Steve and Eugene had switched roles...

No big spoilers here: Charlene's name gets cleared and all is well, with Peter going back to his bland wife and Eugene getting the Coco goddess he so rightly deserved. There's something about an heiress and Peter's kids, but that's just filler. A part of me secretly wanted Peter to be able to make it with Charlene, but he's so damn boring that he really deserves to be with his equally boring wife, who makes such little impact on the film that I can't even recall her name. Basically, everyone gets what they deserve in the end.

One absolutely hilarious scene is the down-and-dirty girl fight that happens between Peter's venomous sister-in-law named Ashley (Missi Pyle) and Charlene. You don't often get full-fledged cat fights in films and this one is a doozy - it's also nice to see Ashley's self-righteous white butt get pummeled by a sista.

But in the end, blind eyes cannot be turned from the truly outrageous racial commentary that is meant with kind hearts but executed in very bad taste. If you like Latifah, rent it if there's nothing else in the hopper for movie night. If you are a die-hard Steve Martin fan, you can do better.

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