Big Momma's House 2 has locked onto the secret formula of all-time. Moderate star + cute kids + inappropriateness divided by hidden crime plot = hit. Admit it, when you saw the trailer for The Pacifier, all you saw was a grenade with its pin freshly pulled. Then, it went on to be a sleeper hit that brought in big bucks, helping to continue what is quickly becoming the excruciating career of Vin Diesel. So, there's no surprise that Big Momma's House 2 skyrocketed to the head of the box office this week. If there's a more consistent way to tell how bad a movie is than it being #1 at the box office, I don't know it.
Martin Lawrence returns as Agent Malcolm Turner, the FBI agent who donned a fat suit, a wig and a southern accent in the first Big Momma's House. He's taken a desk job to spend more time with and protect his pregnant wife (Nia Long) and his stepson. But when his mentor gets shot doing undercover work, he's back on the job as Big Momma. He takes a job as a nanny to an uptight, white family whose father might be involved with what got his mentor shot. Between dealing with a young son who jumps off high places, a middle daughter who can't dance, and a 15 year old horn-dog daughter (Kat Dennings), Malcolm also finds time to unearth a hacker plot to open the codes to the CIA and the FBI (gasp!) while loosening up the OCD mother (Emily Procter). Well, if you don't know where this is going, you've been watching better films than I have.
The one film I kept thinking about here was Houseguest, where Sinbad posed as an old friend of Phil Hartman's while he hid from the mob. That movie was charming in that sorta lazy-Sunday-afternoon way, but here, the problem is Lawrence. Martin Lawrence has always been most successful working with someone: whether with Will Smith, Paul Giamatti, or Tim Robbins, he tends to work better in tandem. When left alone, like he is here and in last years Rebound, he tends to just get annoying, in need of a straight man to bounce off of. This fascinates me, since his stand-up tends to be very successful at generating laughs. It just seems that he has no control, and director John Whitesell does nothing to contain him while banking all the success of the film on him.
Of course, the gross outs are plentiful and the stereotypical black/white jokes are knee deep. Even more than the first one, the story and activities that Malcolm engages in as Big Momma are absolutely devoid of logic. Yes, I understand I should leave logic at the door here, but there's a difference between quibbling about the physics of the tripods in War of the Worlds and the fact that none of the kids see any seams or anything coming loose when Big Momma runs down the beach in a one-piece bathing suit, until the very end when he slides down a picnic table. It becomes hard to give a crap about a film that so blatantly copies other hits (including its predecessor) without even trying to hide it. Being reminded of other films is fine, but this is bordering on plagiarism. Somewhere between watching the family's dog drink tequila and seeing Big Momma get into a fight at a Bingo game, the audience can't help but feel the lack of effort and heart in this film. As much as I thought that being as good as the first film would be easy, it seems that Lawrence and Whitesell made a good portion of this film during tax season.
Hey, what's your sign?