Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Bringing Down the House

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for language, sexual humor and drug material.

Reviewed by: Megan Basham

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
Relevant Issues
Steve Martin, Queen Latifa and Eugene Levy, courtesy Touchstone Pictures

Starring: Queen Latifah, Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Missi Pyle | Directed by: Adam Shankman | Produced by: Ashok Amritraj, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman | Written by: Jason Filardi | Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

Can Steve Martin revive his career in this cross-cultural comedy? Can he do it without sinking to a rash of WB-worthy formulas? Is racism even funny? These are the questions posed throughout the new Steve Martin, Queen Latifah comedy, “Bringing Down the House.”

Martin plays Peter Sanderson, a divorced workaholic tax attorney who, though still in love with his ex-wife (Jean Smart), has become so lonely, he develops a online relationship with a woman he believes to be a blonde lawyer. When the day to meet his cyber-love face to face finally arrives, Sanderson finds he got more than he’d bargained for. Turns out he was duped by recently released ex-con Charlene (Queen Latifah), who latches on to Sanderson in an effort to get her faulty record expunged.

Much of the comedy in this film plays off the now hackneyed notion that white men can’t, well, do anything even remotely cool. Watching Martin fumble between upper-class superiority and pathetic attempts to fit in with the homies tires pretty quickly. Then there’s the other side of that comedy coin: the somewhat bigoted clich that all rich, white people are racists. Almost everyone in Sanderson’s life, from his nosey neighbor Betty White to his Billionaire Heiress client, display a level of racism not seen since the South tried to secede. Certainly people with entrenched prejudices still exist, but it is hard to buy, as this movie suggests, that such a deep-seated condition could be cured simply by smoking a joint with the home-boys. Add to that numerous other scenes of alcohol and drug abuse, and we have a PG-13 rating that should once again be called into question.

Steve Martin consoles his daughter; courtesy Touchstone pictures

For her part, Queen Latifa turns in an engaging performance as the conniving, but good-hearted Charlene. However, an underlying message concerning her relationship with Sanderson’s kids should have parents a little ruffled. For example, in one scene, Charlene teaches Sanderson’s slow-learning seven-year-old how to read using a pornographic magazine. Later we see her oh-so wisely advising Sanderson not to punish his daughter after she has lied to him, snuck out to party flowing with alcohol and ecstasy, and generally put herself in harms way. Instead of firmly, but lovingly punishing her as a responsible father should, Sanderson takes Charlene’s advice and asks his daughter to “share everything with him,” thereby becoming that paragon of the divorced parent, friend rather than father so she’ll think he’s cool.

The movie does contain a few genuinely funny moments, most of which involve Eugene Levy as Sanderson’s wannabe gangster partner and would-be suitor to Charlene. But other than that, most of “Bringing Down the House”’s humor either makes you want to yawn or head out for a civil rights rally.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: One point not mentioned above is the scene when Queen L. jumps on top of Steve Martin and acts as if she is having sex with him on the couch fully clothed. She tells Steve Martian’s character that this is what women want.

For a deeper understanding of the fallacy of racism and how, according to the Bible, all races come from Noah and his three sons, click here.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—I would give this film a 2 star moral rating, “Average—Somewhat Offensive,” only because by today’s standards, it is average in that regard. However, the strong sexual inuendos and overtly sexual situations are predominant in this movie and it rightly earned a PG-13 rating. I must say, Martin and Levy do what they do best here, and it is entertaining on many levels. However, this is not a family movie and I came away from it wondering how much my spiritual sensitivities must have dulled for me to spend money and time on this type of movie.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
John, age 39
Negative—This movie was funny in most parts. However, there was a very vulger scene with Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. For that alone it should have been rated R. The language was also bad throughout. We unfortunately took our youth group to see this movie based on it being rated PG-13. We were wary about it, but thought Steve Martin is usually clean. I was very disappointed. It had people “partying”, cursing, sexual innuendos, pornography magazines, etc.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
Positive—This was one hilarious movie. It definitely hits the top of my list. There were a few questionable parts but nothing that you probably wouldn’t see or hear at a normal day of school. You may not want to subject children under the age of 10 to it, since they won’t understand most of the humor. But with the exception of a few questionable things, I thought it was a great, funny movie to watch with friends.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
Amber, age 17
Neutral—I have always been a fan of Steve Martin, and thought that he was in his element in this film. It was funny at times, but didn’t deliver anything funny enough to remember. I had some problems with a scene invloving a youngster reading from a pornographic magazine, and a teen girl getting away with sneaking out of the house to go to a party. As a Christian, I found one particular instance hilarious: when Queen Latifa mimicked a Southern Gospel Choir singer, and tells Steve Martin he had an “annointing” on him. This, however, could also be considered offensive for those with low tolerance for this type of humour, but in my mind it was harmless. This isn’t a movie you would want to show impressionable children, due to it’s racial comments and some acute drug use. You may also choose to pass on this film if you are in the mood for a memorable evening or for a topic of discussion at a later date.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
Brian, age 18
Neutral—This was a very uncomfortable movie to watch. Extremely inappropriate racist overtones by Betty White’s character. Sexual content when Steve Martin and Queen had been out drinking and came back to his house. The positive was Steve Martin is still fun to watch.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
K. Yount, age 38
Negative—I generally consider myself open-minded, and will sit through most movies to the end. I made the mistake of taking my children to this movie on the advice of a friend who heard it was good. I was outraged. This is a shining example of how the PG-13 rating is too broad to be a credible guide for content. In one scene, Queen Latifah tries to train the geeky Martin to act sexy. He ends up shoving two balls into his pants while she encourages him to put his hands on her breasts. They then “accidentally” fall into more than one lovemaking position. This was supposed to be funny. In a later scene, the stuffy grandmotherly character “lets loose” in a bar, where she shares a joint with two “homeboys.” After that, she is funny, happy and has the munchies. What a great message to send to kids: Smoke pot, be likable and happy. Finally, the racial sterotypes were so out of control, they were far from amusing. In my opinion, this movie has no redeeming value. What a disappointment—I used to be a Steve Martin fan.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 2]
K. Murray, age 44
Positive—“Bringing Down the House” was so funny! The route Charlene (Queen Latifa) takes to enlighten Peter (Steve Martin) is a bit unconventional and some wouldn’t appreciate certain scenes, but if they watch to the end, it all fits with who she is and the outcome. I didn’t mind it and laughed till my sides hurt through much of it. If some would criticize the film for racist comments, I would say that in every instance, those holding these views looked ignorant and ridiculous, not like someone to be emulated. In these difficult times, I appreciate a movie that I can go to and come out laughing amd feeling good.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
Polly Tomlinson, age 44
Neutral—The review is very accurate, but if you can look past the problems the reviewer mentioned, there is some entertainment value. In the first half of this movie, the jokes all fall flat—not necessarily offensive, but not funny, either. But don’t walk out of the theater—the second half is much better. Still, I’d only recommend it for old Steve Martin fans.
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
Greg Bussey, age 36