Bringing Down the House
Here's why the character of Howie Rosenthal (Eugene Levy) exists: Film executives know that white America wouldn't tolerate a romantic relationship between the whitest of white lawyers, Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin), and the blackest of black former prison inmates, Charlene (Queen Latifah). The second Steve Martin put a seriously passionate and romantic lip-lock on Queen Latifah, most white people would run screaming from the theater like they'd been sprayed in the face with oven cleaner. However, it's perfectly okay if the freaky little Jewish guy falls for her, because he's hairy, very weird, and represents only about 8% of the potential market for this film.
Lawyer Sanderson decides to go online for romance and finds what he thinks is hot white female lawyer, only to find out that he's been duped by Charlene, who shows up at his house and begins wreaking havoc, demanding that Sanderson clear her name in an armed robbery case despite the fact that he's a tax attorney.Naturally, Charlene turns out to be an utterly good-natured woman who's innocent and wins over Sanderson's entire family. Naturally, there is scene after scene of Mrs. Kline (Betty White) being appalled at all the "new" people in her neighborhood. Naturally, there is scene after scene of Steve Martin trying to figure out "street" talk. To sort of pile onto the fish-out-of-water scenario is Mrs. Arness (Joan Plowright), an uptight British client of Sanderson's who ends up in a black bar smoking weed. There really is nothing like seeing an old, uptight, white person smoke weed! It's the joke every bad film falls back on once it's run out of bowel movement jokes.
But back to the freaky, little Jewish man. Let's face it: There's something about the American fabric that still won't tolerate large black women and uptight white lawyers copulating on screen. However, Levy's goofy enough that audiences will be more willing to accept the relationship, despite the fact that Sanderson eventually sheds his uptight WASPy ways. This, in turn, inspires Peter to reunite with his whiter-than-white wife (Jean Smart), fully emphasizing the sanctity of white family. Who knew there was a screenwriting class at Bob Jones University?
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