Though "Big Momma's House" is a broad comedy, very little of what happens during the movie is actually funny. Sure, it may steal several pages from the prosthetically-enhanced "The Nutty Professor" and the cross-dressing antics of "Mrs.Doubtfire", but most of the gut-busting humor from these laugh-inducing films have been sadly left behind. For those of you who have yet to get your fix of "Gladiator", "Shanghai Noon", or even "Mission: Impossible 2", this would be a good weekend to do it.
Martin Lawrence ("Life") is Malcolm, FBI agent extraordinaire, equally proficient in wuppin' ass and using disguises to solve crimes. After a dangerous bank robber named Lester (Terrence Howard of "The Best Man") breaks out of prison, Malcolm and his partner John (Paul Giamatti of "Man on the Moon") are assigned to keep an eye on Sherry (Nia Long, seen recently in "Boiler Room"), an old girlfriend of Lester's. Apparently, Sherry was suspected of being an accomplice of Lester's and may know where the loot from Lester's last heist is hidden. However, upon hearing of her ex-boyfriend's escape, Sherry flees with her son (Jascha Washington) to Cartersville, Georgia, where her grandmother, a hefty woman known by all her friends as Big Momma (Ella Mitchell), resides.
However, before Sherry arrives, Big Momma is called out of town by some urgent business. With no Big Momma around to keep Sherry in one place long enough to lure Lester into a trap, Malcolm does the next best thing-- he slaps on the rubber, padding, and latex to become Big Momma. With John keeping watch from a house across the street, Malcolm welcomes Sherry and her son into Big Momma's house, and all sorts of predictable wackiness ensues.
It has been said that the cheapest laughs are physical humor (pratfalls) and toilet jokes, since they pander to the lowest common denominator. Not surprisingly, there certainly is no shortage of these in "Big Momma's House", with numerous scenes of either Malcolm or Paul falling flat on their faces for a number of contrived reasons, as well as a distasteful scene near the film's beginning that milks an overweight woman having a bout of diarrhea for easy laughs. Even when the script goes beyond these lower forms of comedy, the result is just as disappointing. A number of the 'comic scenes' are hardly funny, let alone innovative, such as a belabored childbirth scene that goes on far too long, and a basketball game where Big Momma faces off against a couple of young toughs with predictable results. If you do laugh during this movie, it will more likely be out of politeness than something genuinely funny happening on the screen.
Martin Lawrence's comedic range has always been limited to playing energetic, wildly gesticulating, and fast-talking characters-- witness the wacky characters he played in "Bad Boys", "Nothing to Lose", and last year's "Blue Streak". In "Big Momma's House", Lawrence spends most of his time buried under latex, and so most of his 'comedic physicality' (if there is such a thing) is lost-- Big Momma is probably his least funny role to date. The rest of the cast is equally wasted, playing one-dimensional characters who are too stupid to notice that Malcolm in drag looks and talks nothing like the real Big Momma.
Some moviegoers may remember Lawrence making headlines late last summer when, while jogging to lose weight so that he could fit more easily into the Big Momma costume, he collapsed from heat exhaustion and ended up spending a few days in a coma. It's unfortunate that Lawrence's sacrifices for the craft were for naught, since the end result is as stillborn as comedies come. Relying on stale comedic routines, toilet humor, and uninteresting (not 'too blind to notice that Malcolm in disguise looks nothing like Big Momma') characters, "Big Momma's House" is certain to slip out of theaters with barely a noise. Whatever you do this weekend, stay out of this 'house'.