Big Momma’s House

dir Raja Gosnell
scr Darryl Quarles, Don Rhymer
with Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Pail Giamatti, Terrence Howard, Ella Mitchell, Jascha Washington, Anthony Anderson
Fox 00/US 2 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
Blending elements of a thriller, romance and gross-out comedy, Big Momma's House is one of those ineptly made films that somehow manages to also be a huge crowd-pleaser. Its one-joke premise wears thin after about five minutes, but its four principal cast members are good enough to keep us watching. They almost help us forget how lame the storyline is.

Malcolm (Lawrence) is an FBI agent who, with his partner (Giamatti), is on the trail of an escaped convict (Howard). Their task is to find the villain's girlfriend Sherry (Long), so they stake out the home of the family matriarch who raised her--a very large Southern woman. But Big Momma has gone away, and they need her there to lure Sherry, so Malcolm uses his expertise at disguise to assume Momma's identity. And of course he then falls hopelessly in love with the luscious Sherry.

The humour basically sticks to the fact that the "new" Big Momma is actually an athletic young man. In other words: an old woman doing things an old woman shouldn't be doing--lots of cheap-laugh sight gags with a few gross-outs thrown in. But after we get the joke, it's not funny anymore ... especially since the actress who plays the real Big Momma (Mitchell) is far funnier than Lawrence in drag. But never mind. Lawrence does have superb comic timing, even if the same can't be said of director Gosnell. Long is gorgeous and charming as ever. Howard is nicely menacing. And Giamatti is entertaining in the goofy sidekick role, which is tricky since Lawrence is pretty goofy himself. But the script is such rubbish that you have to be willing to laugh at the same joke over and over again. And then find the strength in your stomach for the simplistic, sticky-sweet ending.

[12--themes, language, vulgarity] 6.Jun.00
US release 2.Jun.00; UK release 23.Jun.00

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© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall