Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Original "Big Momma's House" is a Fun House

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Big Momma’s House (2000)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude humor including sexual innuendo, and for language and some violence
DIRECTOR: Raja Gosnell
WRITERS: Darryl Quarles and Don Rhymer; from a story by Darryl Quarles
PRODUCERS: David T. Friendly and Michael Green
EDITORS: Kent Beyda and Bruce Green
Image Awards nominee


Starring: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Jascha Washington, Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Ella Mitchell, Cedric the Entertainer, and Tichina Arnold

FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) is a master of disguise, but to catch an escaped convict, he’ll have to pull off his greatest masquerade. Murderer and bank robber Lester Vesco (Terrence Dashon Howard) has escaped from prison. Vesco is looking for his old girlfriend, Sherry Pierce (Nia Long), long suspected by the police to be Vesco’s accomplice because she worked at the bank he robbed, and also suspected of knowing where the money from the robbery, which was never recovered, is. Panicked by news of Lester’s escape, Sherry takes her young son, Trent Pierce (Jascha Washington), and heads to the home of Big Momma, Sherry’s massively fat grandmother, Hattie Mae Pierce (Ella Mitchell), in Cartersville, Georgia.

Malcolm and his partner, John (Paul Giamatti), also head to Georgia and put Big Momma’s house under surveillance in hopes of discovering whereabouts of both Lester Vesco and the Sherry is allegedly hiding the money. When an emergency suddenly calls Big Momma away from her house for a week or so, Malcolm and John are afraid that Sherry will change her plans to stay at Big Momma’s house. Malcolm, using his and John’s fantastic abilities at creating prosthetics and masks, disguises himself as Big Momma. He, however, doesn’t count on falling in love with Sherry while pretending to me Big Momma. Will the romance and the effort it takes to maintain the disguise cause Malcolm to miss the arrival of Vesco and the return of the real Big Momma.

There’s something appealing about a man playing a woman. It’s especially interesting if the man is playing a woman for comedy, but there is something really attention-grabbing when a black man plays a fat black woman, which is what actor/comedian Martin Lawrence does in Big Momma’s House. Just seeing Martin in that get-up as a morbidly obese, black Southern matron elicits raucous laughter, so one sees Big Momma’s House strictly for the comedy. Martin is damn funny in drag, although he can disguise himself quite well to play a variety of comical male roles, as he does here, early in the film playing an older Asian hood.

Big Momma’s House if filled with sidesplitting comedy and a generous helping of belly laughs. The film falls apart when it tries the romantic comedy angle between Malcolm Turner (without his Big Momma getup) and Sherry Pierce; it’s dry and rings hollow. The actual police procedural (or what tries to be) doesn’t amount to much, so Paul Giamatti’s John is wasted. It’s hard to tell if Lawrence and Giamatti have any real screen chemistry, but something’s definitely there when they’re on screen together.

With its generous helping of laugh-out-loud comedy and a generous side of flatulence and juvenile humor for the kids, Big Momma’s House is simply a comedy that works. Add Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma to the list of great comic performances by actors in drag.

6 of 10

2001 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstand Actress in a Motion Picture (Nia Long)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


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