Bringing Down The House

Steve Martin plays an uptight tax lawyer whose on-line sweetheart turns out to be an escaped convict (Queen Latifah) trying to get some help disproving what she claims are false charges. Even though I expect glibness in a Disney comedy, I was rankled by the movie’s strategy of cheerfully ridiculing racial stereotypes that are already half a century out of date in order to revert to its own contemporary racial stereotypes (white as well as black) as if they were beyond criticism. In Jason Filardi’s sloppy script, characters undergo inexplicable changes in a flash (Martin can’t understand a word of hip-hop lingo until he decides to voyage into the hood, at which point he immediately becomes a master), though it may be quixotic to demand credibility from a screenwriter when almost every one of his characters is a liar. Eugene Levy is the only actor who emerges relatively unscathed in this fetid climate; as for Joan Plowright, I hope she took home a healthy check. Adam Shankman directed. 105 min. (JR)

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