Sunday, February 20, 2011

Film Review with Robert Mann - Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son *

It’s official – 2011 has a major case of sequelitis, this year boasting the highest number of sequels ever to ever be released in a single year – 27 of them in fact – with 9 second movies (Sherlock Holmes 2, The Hangover Part II, Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Happy Feet 2, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules, Johnny English Reborn and Piranha 3DD), 5 third movies (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Paranormal Activity 3, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Madea’s Big Happy Family
okay, that one won’t mean much to anyone outside of America – and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son), 5 fourth movies (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One, Scream 4, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World), 5 fifth movies (Fast Five – which is actually both a sequel and a prequel at the same time – X-Men: First Class – although this is a prequel – Final Destination 5, Puss in Boots – technically more of a spin-off – and Winnie the Pooh), 2 films that can technically be classed as seventh movies (The Muppets and Rise of the Apes – also technically a prequel) and one eighth entry (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two) – and this isn’t even counting New Year’s Eve which may or may not be a sequel to last year’s Valentine’s Day and The Thing which may be either a prequel or a remake – being unleashed upon cinema screens over the course of the year. Among this extensive list are numerous hotly anticipated movies but there are also some sequels that no one ever asked for and you just know that things have been taken way too far when one of the sequels being released is a follow up to 2000’s Big Momma’s House and 2006’s Big Homma’s House 2. While Big Momma’s House 2 did prove to be surprisingly successful upon its cinema release (although in the UK this was largely due to the fact that it carried a PG rating compared to the original film’s 15, thus allowing a whole lot more people to actually see it) there has certainly never been any indication that anyone actually wants Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, the franchise’s tired and predictable formula now having nothing left to offer viewers and there being plenty of indication from the performance of recent movies released in cinemas that moviegoers may be getting tired or paying to see rubbish (maybe but I somehow doubt it), instead opting for films of higher quality, a category that this film most definitely doesn’t fall into. I guess this film has probably really only emerged out of desperation from its star Martin Lawrence, whose career hasn’t exactly been on a high lately, films such as College Road Trip and Death at a Funeral hardly having much clout at the box office, and director John Whitesell, whose only film since directing the second Big Momma’s House film was the mediocre 2006 Christmas comedy Deck the Halls. You don’t need me to tell you that Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son is a bad film. But at least we can be thankful that they didn’t decide to do it in 3D – I doubt Big Momma’s suit is something that anyone would ever want to see in the extra dimension.

With his wife away on a retreat, the FBI’s top agent, Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence), is facing some major issues with his wayward 17 year old son Trent (Brandon T. Jackson). Trent, an aspiring musician, has been offered a contract with a record company for his rap group Prodi-G but Malcolm would much rather his son spend the next four years at Duke University where he has just been accepted, something that Trent is not at all keen on. And things only get worse between Malcolm and his son when Trent gatecrashes his dad’s operation to snare well connected criminal Chirkoff (Tony Curran), resulting in Trent inadvertently witnessing the violent murder of an informant and, as a result, he and Malcolm having to go into hiding. With the information that the informant possessed apparently hidden in a safe location, Malcolm and Trent go undercover to locate the flash drive on which it is contained but it is hidden within a girls’ school for the arts and they must go into disguise if they have any hope of finding the vital evidence. Reprising his role as Big Momma, Malcolm disguises Trent as Charmaine, Big Momma's troubled niece and together they infiltrate the school where they both immediately undertake very different methods of investigation. Believing that the flash drive is located in a music box which has recently been stolen from the school library, Malcolm suspects that a group of students – Haley (Jessica Lucas), Jasmine (Portia Doubleday) and Mia (Michelle Ang) – may be responsible for the theft. As Malcolm goes about his investigation, however, Trent finds himself falling for Haley, putting the entire operation and their very lives at risk in the process. Can Malcolm and Trent find the evidence needed to stop the murderer before they themselves become his next victims?

I must confess that, while I didn’t consider either Big Momma’s House or Big Momma’s House 2 to be good films, I did actually find both rather amusing, both films proving to be quite funny despite not exactly being well made. Somewhat ironically perhaps given that the subtitle for this third chapter in the series is Like Father, Like Son, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son is anything but “like father, like son”, where its predecessors actually managed to be funny this one failing almost completely, aside from an odd giggle raised here and there. And if you need any better indication as to how unfunny this film is you only need to look at the cameo appearance by Ken Jeong in the film’s opening sequence as a mailman who gets on the wrong side of Malcolm. When Jeong, who appeared in three of the worst movies of last year, appears in a film nowadays it really should come as no surprise that that film is completely abysmal. Abysmal is a word that applies to much that is on offer here, the writing being absolutely atrocious, the writers seemingly forgetting the two most important things – a plot and jokes, the story here being paper thin, the characters weak and the gags just lame. The humour here is more likely to make you cringe than laugh and, while, just like the second film, this film carries a PG rating, the studio clearly hoping to attract the family audience that came out for the second one, I definitely would not recommend this film for family viewing, some of the humour coming close to the grotesque, albeit only suggestively – as far as they can go with a PG rating. Also, with the film played entirely for laughs – of which there are few – any action sequences that feature are just lacklustre, failing to generate any thrills and generating even fewer giggles. The acting here does little to engage us any more than the bad writing, lame jokes and lousy action with Martin Lawrence being exactly the same as he is in everything else, only a lot less funny, Brandon T. Jackson being no better (although they do at least make for a fairly convincing father-son double act and their fat suits do render them sufficiently unrecognisable) and Scottish actor Tony Curran – who was so excellent as Vincent Van Gogh in Doctor Who last year – making for an extremely mediocre and by the numbers bad guy while the delightful and talented likes of Jessica Lucas, Portia Doubleday and Michelle Ang – are completely wasted outside of a few scenes that see their characters showcase their artistic talents, scenes that make for the film’s few saving graces, their dancing, singing and piano performing abilities really being pretty good – it’s just a shame they didn’t have a better showcase for them. Aside from these scenes showing the characters performing their arts, an impromptu musical number and a tender moment between Trent and Hailey, there really isn’t much positive that can be said about this film. Starting to drag long before it reaches its closing act, the film long outstays its welcome, this critic having become bored before the conclusion finally arrived. The first two Big Momma’s House films may not have been good films but they at least managed to be watchable; the needless third instalment, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, on the other hand is just plain bad and should be avoided at all costs during this half term holiday.

Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

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