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Bringing Down the House

Rated PG-13 - language, sexual humor and drug material.
Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Plot Summary

Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) is a divorced, straight-laced, uptight attorney who still loves his ex-wife (Jean Smart) and canít figure out what he did wrong to make her leave him. However, Peterís trying to move on, and heís smitten with a brainy, bombshell barrister heís been chatting with on-line. However, when she comes to his house for their first face to face, she isnít refined, isnít Ivy League, and isnít even a lawyer. Instead, itís Charlene (Queen Latifah), a prison escapee whoís proclaiming her innocence and wants Peter to help clear her name. But Peter wants nothing to do with her, prompting the loud and shocking Charlene to turn Peterís perfectly ordered life upside down, jeopardizing his effort to get back with his wife and woo a billion dollar client. In the end, the unlikely pair has the chance to put each otherís lives on higher groundÖ

Film Review

Bringing Down the House showcases an unlikely pair in Steve Martin and Queen Latifah and creates a mix that is a certain recipe for disaster and of course, hilarity. But Bringing Down... is a comedy that doesn't squeak by without being a little brought down itself...

Steve Martin is a comedy veteran most are still familiar with today even as his age finally starts to match his long-time white hair. Queen Latifah, on the other hand, is a much younger artist, who originally began her career in music some years ago and has since made a name for herself as an actress with even getting nominated this year for an Oscar for her role in the award-winning Chicago. Here we team up the ghetto superstar with a prince of comedy for Liar Liar meets Rush Hour meets You've Got Mail comedy. Like Liar Liar, a too-busy-for-his-family lawyer is hoping to get his life back in order when, like in You've Got Mail, he meets a woman over the web he was never expecting, only to team up with a ghetto-talking partner that is wonderfully mismatched somewhat like in Rush Hour. So how does all of these tie in together? The stiff Martin plays off well with the loose and free-spirited Latifah. The acting was great despite Latifah's character seeming a little over the top at times. Eugene Levy did a great job as Martin's unorthodox black-women-loving partner. The thing the film had going for it most was heart. And while the struggles Martin's children went through was handled much more powerfully in the touching John Candy vehicle Uncle Buck, this film was moreso about the conflicts between Martin and Latifah and everything else was secondary.

Content-wise, the language wasn't too bad for a film like this. However, sexual material is what bogged down the film's enjoyability the most with mostly dialog-related references. The worst involves Latifah's character Charlene coaching Martin's character Peter on how to win his ex-wife back, including teaching him how to talk dirty and come on to her (and included grabbing Charlene's chest awkwardly and placing large "balls" down his pants to signify manhood). Besides dialog-related situations, we also see Peter's son Georgey reading a porno magazine that Charlene gave to him to teach him to read, as such he reads some offensive material that is played for laughs but at the same time distasteful. Violence is moderate including a sequence where Charlene and Peter's evil sister-in-law Ashley get into a pretty hefty brawl.

Aside from the content-related drawbacks, the film offered an enjoyable story with several good laughs (especially Peter's experience at a party near the film's end). With some more wholesome content, this could have been a really excellent film. With content in mind, I couldn't offer the film too high of a rating. A good comedy, but surely not Martin's best work, you may want to wait till this film is on video to watch it without some of the junk (using an editing program like ClearPlay), or to miss it entirely.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/24/03)


Parental Guide: Content Summary

. Sex/Nudity: Mostly dialog-related. Several comments/innuendo are made during the film. In one scene, we see Peter's ex-wife Kate in a hotel room with her young boyfriend as he tickles her and waits for her on their bed while she is on the phone. Peter finds Georgey reading one of his porno magazines and we see a topless woman on the cover with her arm hiding any explicit nudity. During this sequence, Georgey reads a line using the word "nipple" before asking Peter what "a rack" is. Later we see Georgey reading this magazine again. Peter's 14-year-old daughter Sarah goes out with two teenage boys and climbs into the back seat of a car with one of them (the other's driving) and we see the scene ends there. Later we see her at a party and she is upset because her boyfriend tried to have sex with her but she wouldn't do it. After a night of dancing and partying, Charlene and Peter return home with Peter being quite drunk. Charlene proceeds to coach him in talking dirty and being more manly in his approach with winning back his wife. As such, she makes him touch her chest and put 2 balls down his pants to make him more confident about his manhood (which he grabs). He jumps on top of her on the couch but falls off. She spanks his butt and then throws him on the couch and straddles him and begins to use movement (both are clothed). Soon, Peter's neighbor walks in with Georgey only to see the two of them doing this and covers his eyes. A woman dances with Peter at a party in a semi-sexual manner. Ashley exits an office with an older man and readjusts herself before the man emerges looking flustered with lipstick on his face (implying they had sex or fooled around).
. Vulgarity/Language: 1 incomplete "f" word (starting with mother and stopped there), 1 "g*dd*mn," 5 "s" words, 4 "b*tch," 5 terms for sex ("nail," "hitting that *ss," "humping" & "doing"), 11 "a" words, 7 "d*mn," 7 "h*ll," 1 incomplete "S.O.B.," 5 "G-d"
. Alcohol/Drugs: There's drinking several times with Peter getting drunk in one scene. Later, in another sequence, some people pass a joint around at a party (with one woman admitting she's "stoned")
. Blood/Gore: Ashley's face is discolored after a fight.
. Violence: Charlene accidentally punches and kicks Peter; Ashley and Charlene have a massive catfight; a man repeatedly hits another man's head on a steering wheel; a person threatens people with a gun; a person is shot (but isn't killed)


Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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