Big Momma’s House

1999 was an unusually good year for movies; 2000 has been nowhere near as productive. The Sargasso Sea that so far is film in the new millennium unfortunately continues, with the release of Big Momma’s House. This is a film that appears to have been made without benefit of a script – it’s a seemingly random collection of shots and scenes strung together with no concern for continuity, common sense, or an audience’s intelligence.

A quick culturevulture quiz – Which is funnier?

C – A naked old fat black woman who’s just gone to the bathroom in very aromatic fashion

If you answered "D" – avoid this film. If you answered "C" – please contact 20th Century Fox, as you have a bright future ahead of you as a screenwriter for Big Momma’s House 2.

The story (what there is of it) is a thin stew of shamelessly stolen ingredients, one part Mrs. Doubtfire, one part Nutty Professor, one part Tootsie, five parts idiocy. FBI agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) is a master of disguise. His latest assignment brings him to a small Georgia town, where he’s determined to catch a bank robber (and recent prison escapee). Malcolm sets up a stakeout across from the home of a southern matriarch known as Big Momma, who’s about to be visited by the con’s former flame, Sherry (Nia Long, Boiler Room) and her son. But Big Momma has unexpectedly left town, so Malcolm uses his makeup skills to impersonate her. Malcolm then (naturally) finds himself falling for Sherry, who may or may not be hiding some stolen cash for her ex-boyfriend. Is Sherry truly innocent? Can Malcolm catch the bad guy? Will Malcolm win the girl? Did Rose Kennedy own a black dress?

Raja Gosnell (who previously directed the timeless Home Alone 3) directs the film like one of those airport runway workers with the large lighted paddles – he just wigwags a seemingly endless line of sitcom-level gags past the audience in hopes that something will eventually register. Screenwriters Darryl Quarles and Don Rhymer are from a television background, so it’s no surprise that the story line is delivered in small, self-contained doses with little to connect them. You can tell exactly where the commercials would be if this had been a made-for-TV movie. And if it had, that would have been a blessing – because remote controls have several buttons, any of which could have provided relief from this disaster.

Each scene plays out with absolutely no surprises – within ten seconds the audience knows exactly what’s going to happen next. Oh – this is going to be the scene where Big Momma breakdances. Here’s Big Momma stuffing a basketball, Big Momma punching out a bad guy. Yawn. Lawrence’s impersonation of Big Momma is also a problem. In Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire, Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams totally adopted the mannerisms of their subjects, not just the physical appearance. But here, Big Momma just looks like… Martin Lawrence in a rubber suit. It’s hard to believe that anyone would buy for a second that he’s an elderly woman. Not much is required of Nia Long – she’s mainly in the film so that Gosnell’s camera has an attractive body to leer at every few minutes.

If there is any justice in the hereafter, when the people responsible for Big Momma’s House visit the Hell’s Plaza Octoplex, this steaming heap will be playing on all eight screens. Ad infinitum.

– Bob Aulert