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Go ahead and laugh

[an error occurred while processing this directive] By BILLY NORRIS

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 17, 2003

Movie: Bringing Down the House

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) is a successful and wealthy lawyer who has two kids but is divorced from a wife he still loves. He makes a date via the Internet with a woman he believes to be a well-educated, accomplished, white (based on a digital photo) attorney. When she shows up at his home for the date, though, she's not at all what he expected. Charlene (Queen Latifah) is an African-American prison escapee who refuses to leave once she enters Sanderson's house. She has been posing as a lawyer over the Internet to feel out his legal knowledge and reliability. Now she is trying desperately to persuade him to take on her case. Although she's been convicted of armed robbery and there is a bank surveillance tape to prove it, she claims she was framed. She just doesn't know by whom. She somehow persuades Sanderson to take the case, but he ends up getting himself into a much bigger mess than he bargained for. Full of good intentions, she's convinced she can help him get back with his wife by teaching him how to loosen up and be a soulful, fun guy. But she must stay undercover and out of the watchful eye of a vigilant (and overtly prejudiced) neighbor and the police.

Dancing in the kitchen
[Photo: Buena Vista Pictures]
Charlene, played by Queen Latifah, dances with Sarah (Kimberly J. Brown) and Georgey (Angus T. Jones) in Bringing Down the House. 

My View: Steve Martin and Queen Latifah -- now there's a combination you don't see every day, and it's that "odd couple" factor that makes this film work. The key to enjoying this movie is to enjoy their performances and the laughs without getting analytical about it. Perhaps with a different cast, the humor could be perceived as racially offensive -- on both sides of the coin. With these two sharing the spotlight, though, the offensiveness is taken out of the picture, and the stuff becomes just plain funny. It's really on the edge, and you get those qualms of "should I really be laughing at this?" Well, yes you should laugh at it, because it's funny! Take those two stellar performances, and throw in hilarious efforts from Eugene Levy and Joan Plowright, and in spite of sometimes questionable humor, the bottom line is you will laugh out loud.

Recommendations: Be forewarned, the humor is crude. There's an abundance of racially questionable jokes and sexually suggestive scenes, so heed the rating. This will have a wide appeal to anyone over 13. This is one of the funniest films to grace the theaters this year.

Grade: B

-- Billy Norris, 15, is in the ninth grade at Seminole High School and is a former member of the Times' X-Team.

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