Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Big Momma's House 2

BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 2 (John Whitesell, 2006)

Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) has traded undercover work for the less dangerous job of a safety officer who wears an eagle costume at school assemblies in BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 2. Although Malcolm switched to a desk job at his wife Sherry’s (Nia Long) request, he itches to return to the field. Opportunity knocks when an FBI agent is needed to infiltrate the household of Tom Fuller (Mark Moses), who is suspected of developing a computer worm that can do immense damage to the government intelligence community’s network. The FBI has an agent lined up to take a job as the Fuller’s nanny, but in defiance of his unknowing co-workers and pregnant spouse, Malcolm dresses up as Big Momma, wins over Mrs. Fuller (Emily Procter), and looks for clues between attending to the three children and completing chores.

There must be something about dressing up as a large, older woman that brings out the best in Martin Lawrence. Typically he comes across as an obnoxious egotist, but as Big Momma he’s forced to dial down how pleased he is with himself and affect the manners of an earthy southern matron. Even underneath the fat suit, latex, and blonde wig, Lawrence won’t convince anyone that he’s Big Momma. His artificial folksiness and politeness through gritted teeth make a better, and funnier, disguise. (Lawrence could teach Tyler Perry a thing or two.) The humor derives from seeing Big Momma doing unexpected things for a woman of her age and size—adopting Bo Derek’s 10 beach look, teaching grade school cheerleaders Beyoncé’s booty dance—and as far as this sort of broad comedy goes, it’s mildly amusing despite its obviousness and lack of freshness

From the first film to the sequel Big Momma switches from small town Georgia to Wisteria Lane. The venue change is ripe with potential for an upper class family’s ambition and eccentricities to shock Big Momma. The kids are overscheduled with activities and underexposed to their parents. (Thankfully, the children are likable rather than bratty.) In addition to eating Brillo pads and remaining silent, the youngest child loves leaping from high places and landing face first, a gag that doesn’t get old. The family Chihuahua is depressed, wears cutesy outfits, and develops a fondness for tequila. These domestic scenes have a flair for the knowingly absurd, which is more than the humdrum crime plot has going for it.

BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 2 draws out some laughs, but it isn’t a particularly well-made film. The cinematography is flat and washed out. There’s little concern for continuity or a commitment to convincing the audience of the ruse’s feasibility, even for a film requiring a large suspension of disbelief. Overnight Malcolm cleans the Fuller house while out of his Big Momma costume, a risk he surely wouldn’t take and a missed chance to show his invented character struggling with chores. It’s filled out with immaterial subplots, such as Malcolm hiding his undercover work from his wife, which inadvertently leads her to believe he’s having an affair. (At least this tired thread produces one good joke when Sherry finds an enormous blue thong stashed under their bed.)

BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 2 lacks comedic momentum to sustain the ridiculousness of Lawrence as Big Momma, but it’s a welcome break from the star’s tough cop act and his abominable family film turn in REBOUND.

Grade: C+

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