By: Addison Wylie
Back in 2006, the sequel to the hit Big Momma’s House was released on a slow weekend in February. When the numbers were released on Sunday night, the move snagged the number one spot and earned a surprising amount of money at the end of it’s theatrical run.
Why is this information relevant to the third installment, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son? I believe that executives looked at the initial high numbers and the large response to the second film and thought that fans would rush out to see another action/mystery helmed by a cop in drag. It’s as if these executives didn’t do in depth researching though. Big Momma’s House 2 was received rather poorly and although it pulled in a decent amount of cash, it was apparent that the Big Momma character had overstayed his/her welcome. It’s even more obvious in this unimaginative, unfunny, and unnecessary addition.
Malcolm Turner, played once again by Martin Lawrence, is hot on the trail on yet another hard hitting, investigative case. This time, the case involves a gang of russian mobsters lead by the snarling leader Chirkoff (hardy har har), played by Tony Curran. As Malcolm tries to track down evidence to dispose of the gang, Turner is also trying to control his stepson Trent, played by Brandon T. Jackson. Trent goes by the stage alias “Prodi-G” and him and his pals aspire to be the next big names in hip hop. When an agent notices Trent and his friends, the group suddenly has the chance to try and take a stab at reaching their goal. All Trent has to do is get Malcolm to sign a contract. Malcolm refuses. Frustrated and determined, Trent follows Malcolm on an undercover stakeout to confront him about the signature. Before he knows it, Trent witnesses a murder by one of the gang members and word quickly spreads to Chirkoff. In order to protect their identities, Malcolm dons his Big Momma costume and supplies Trent with his own alternate persona, Charmaine Daisy Pierce. It just so happens that the key evidence to expose Chirkoff and his fiends is located on a memory stick at an all girls school. The cross dressing comedic duo venture off.
Both Lawrence and Jackson are disguised in make-up throughout and both actors have similar functioning problems. It appears the actors have a hard time speaking with the large amount of make-up caked on to their faces; especially Lawrence who looks like he can barely move his mouth. The look of the make-up in Big Mommas could be an allegory for how movie goers feel during the duration of the film; droopy and exhausted. In the past films, Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma character looked more than passable and added a lot to the physical comedy. Here, the appearance looks uncomfortable and ends up being a wasted opportunity. Instead of covering just his upper torso in lots of unrecognizable latex, Lawrence now embodies a large suit that resembles a naked, heavier set woman. Director John Whitesell and Screenwriters Matthew Fogel and Don Rhymer try to make use of this new asessory but don’t explain to the audience why this new disguise is in Lawrence’s hands. The only time Lawrence sheds his clothes is when Big Momma is asked to pose nude for an art class. Did the police department construct this cast just in case situations like these arose?
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Because of how painfully obvious the make-up is, it also adds to how moronic the characters are in the film. No one does any double takes or questions Big Momma and Charmaine’s appearance. This could’ve been a good opportunity for some sharp jabs but the screenwriters drop the ball. The girls who attend the school are portrayed as dim. Thier actions are unmotivated and sometimes they have a hard time controlling the volume of their voice. Michelle Ang’s character squeals her lines which is supposed to add comedy to a situation but the audience ends up becoming distracted with her speech pattern. Portia Doubleday, who seriously needs to consider finding another agent, is the “mean girl” here. However, like the other characters, none of what she does or says is motivated in any way. When Big Momma and Trent arrive at the school, Doubleday spits out lines like “I run this school” and even she seems confused as to why she feels the need to be intimidating to these newcomers. When the audience finds out exactly why Doubleday is being a bully, it adds to the already frustrating nature of the character.
The young stars are attractive and I have no doubt that they’re capable of much more. Take Brandon T. Jackson and Jessica Lucas. As the plot thickens, Trent starts to fall for Lucas’ character, Haley. The film constantly showcases both actors singing. In fact, Big Mommas feels more like a showcase for these two rising actors than a Martin Lawrence vehicle. The songs are badly written and are trying way too hard to connect with younger audiences. On top of that, the scenes featuring the two musicians aren’t edited well into the movie and adds to the unbalanced storytelling. Hell, the two actors are too old to play high schoolers as well. However, after having the film kick around in my head, I came to the conclusion that I would’ve much rather seen a separate vehicle altogether with these two actors playing lead roles in a musical. Both their voices fit well with one another and their charisma and on screen chemistry is very strong. I look forward to hopefully catching these two in my dream project.
For now, we have to focus on Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. It’s time for Lawrence to move onto another project; perhaps make a return to R rated films so his uncensored comedy can roam free. I think Lawrence can be a strong performer when he isn’t making neutered schlock like his recent PG-13 projects. As for the Big Momma character, well, it’s time to hang up the fat suit. Stick a fork in this franchise. It’s done.