Big Momma's House (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|Remember we were discussing those high
concept movies that people kept pitching to Tim Robbins
in "The Player". You know, kind of a Seventh
Seal meets Basket Case? This is one of those hybrid
concepts. It's Mrs Doubtfire meets The Nutty Professor.
A black FBI guy (Martin Lawrence) goes undercover as an obese old black woman
in order to keep an eye on a woman who is likely to be
visited by a baddie. Of course, the woman he has to keep
an eye on is Nia Long, and he ends up falling for her while unable to
reveal his true gender.
Following the path blazed by Something About Mary, The Nutty Professor, and The Spy Who Shagged Me, the film indulges in plenty of gross-out humor and lingering discussions of unpleasant bodily functions. Martin Lawrence starts it all off by hiding in the shower stall of a 350 pound woman while she has a bad case of diarrhea on the nearby commode. After she finishes her obviously redolent process, she proceeds to strip off all her clothing on camera while Martin watches. And, I should add, while we watch.
So right off the bat you might get the message that this film isn't going to be shown on Masterpiece Theater, and it probably isn't Harper Lee's long lost sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.
Some of the humor is even more like grade school recess than Spy Who Shagged Me, but there are also some pretty funny scenes cut from the same cloth:
OK, it's silly. Did you expect anything else? The critics hated the film, and they had many valid points. It isn't a great flick, it isn't a smart flick, and let's face it, you have to leave your brain at the door to appreciate it. It asks for a monumental suspension of disbelief. Could Martin Lawrence fool a woman who hadn't seen Big Momma in years? Sure, why not? That's possible if he could avoid certain situations. But in this flick he fools people that see the real Big Momma every day, and they are not surprised to see him use cooking tongs to deliver a baby, or to cook all food in his signature stew of butter, Crisco and cooking oil.
While those elements of the film employ absurd humor which obviously takes place outside of reality, as per standard comedy conventions, the scenes with the bad guy are played for keeps. There's no exaggeration; no comic effects; just plain realism, as if we were watching a crime drama. The young children who might enjoy the light tone of the rest of the film will be scared senseless by the menacing baddie, who is played by the always-effective Terrence Howard with complete realism, as if he were in a completely different movie. He's tough and bad, and yet strangely charismatic. If I were casting a criminal who would just scare the hell out of the audience, this guy would be my choice, because his style is unlike anyone else's. He has a soft manner, and he's handsome, but his insidious polish and good looks just make him more evil. He comes off as cold as ice, and you just know you better not cross him. I know one thing. I ain't writing any negatives about this man, just in case he reads it, because he scares my tired old white ass. I strongly recommend they give him an Oscar ...
... or even, if he asks menacingly enough, all the Oscars.
You know what? I kinda enjoyed this movie, in the face of the terrible critical response. Martin Lawrence kept the pace up, the spirit is infectious, and I laughed out loud more than once. In addition to the scenes I discussed earlier, I thought that Martin's testifying in Church (as Big Momma, of course) was very funny. And Nia Long has the best smile this side of Cameron Diaz.
But - fair warning- the critics hated this film and you might hate it too, unless you have a lot of third grader still buried inside of you somewhere.
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