Bringing Down the House is the most apologetically racist film I've seen in years. Better comedies, like last year's raucous Undercover Brother take racial stereotypes as fodder to find humor in celebrating and poking fun at the differences between us. Bringing Down the House has no such lofty ambition. Rather it fills itself to the brim with a culture of racist clowns. In the world of Bringing Down the House, white people are all half-witted bigots and racism is something we all should just learn to accept.
Representing the honkey contingent, is Steve Martin. On the fast track to Eddie Murphy sized failure, Martin plays a lonely, rich, attorney/divorcee who finds love on the Internet. When at last he and his Internet sweetie meet, he discovers he's been duped. Charlene (Queen Latifah) is not the bombshell blonde lawyer she sold herself as, instead she's a full-figured, ex-con black woman with ten tons of attitude and a whole lot of persistence. I think the trailer phrased it "She's not his soul mate... she's a soul sista!" I may have that wrong, I get nauseous and dizzy every time I see that promo.
Martin's character tries to throw Charlene out on her ample behind, but Charlene needs free legal help and thus cannot be swayed. She blackmails and tortures him into getting what she wants, all the while feeding his WASP lifestyle by playing the fool around all the racist, elitist white folk. There are attempts at humor, all at the expense of intelligence and sanity. Eugene Levy steps in to try and break the bigot mold, throwing himself at Charlene's feet, perhaps a symptom of some sort of white guilt. The material in this movie is every bit as tired as Steve Martin's sadly static delivery. Repeating every tired old gag he's probably done a hundred times before, Martin is simply going through the motions in a hopelessly bad movie on the last shreds of autopilot.
It is honestly a pity that a movie like this ever gets made; even more so when you consider that millions of people will see it without ever giving a second thought to what a movie like this really says. Twenty years ago it was funny to see white people trying to act black. Heck, Steve Martin himself was doing it back then only in GOOD movies where he was trying to say something relevant while knocking your socks off with laughs. But decades later, a cast this talented ought to be able to come up with something less hack. Instead, what they've made is a movie about bigots that gives racism a pass and pushes the notion that racial intolerance is just an accepted and natural part of every day life.
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