This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Bringing Down the House
Written by Mel Odom
Tuesday, 05 August 2003
|Bringing Down The House
|Touchstone Home Entertainment
||Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Jean Smart, Joan Plowright
Many people remember Steve Martin from his stand-up comedy days and
from his appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” but the actor’s greatest
chance for everlasting fame may well be the movies he’s made about
families. “Bringing Down The House” doesn’t quite reach the same level
of execution as “Father of the Bride” or its sequel, or of the tender
romantic moments laced with comedy in “Roxanne.” Still, the movie is an
enjoyable romp that pairs Martin with Queen Latifah, who stands as a
comedic power as well.
Martin plays Peter Sanderson, an overworked workaholic attorney who’s
divorced and unhappy. His wife (Jean Smart) kept the house and the
kids, and Peter has visitation privileges, which never seem to go the
way he intends because he constantly disappoints the children. Chapter
1 opens up with light and breezy music that harkens back to the Doris
Day movies of the ‘60s. Peter corresponds with Charlene, whom he
believes to be another attorney, and with whom he’s conferred about a
client, as well as other legal matters.
Moving swiftly, the film sets up the rest of Peter’s life, quickly
establishing the threat of a younger attorney (“Smallville’s” Michael
Rosenbaum) who’s prepared to take over Peter’s client list if he misses
a step, and his best friend Howie, played by Eugene Levy with the
impeccable and incredible dry humor laced with gonzo that he delivers
so well. When the young lawyer makes his move to seize an important and
extremely rich client, Peter fends him off without breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately, saving the deal also means that Peter can’t take the
kids to Hawaii as he’d promised. Adding insult to injury, when Peter
meets his new client, an old woman, Mrs. Arness (Joan Plowright), who
inherited her millions, she tells him she’s glad the firm saw fit to
send an attorney her age.
Chapter 2 introduces Peter’s home life, complete with ditzy neighbor
and upper-crust neighborhood. Upbeat jazz music spins through the
surround sound system as Peter gets ready to meet Charlene after weeks
of talking to her via email and staring holes in her picture. When she
arrives, however, Charlene is not the woman featured so prominently in
the picture he received through email. Charlene is black, brassy, and
newly released from prison.
Charlene tells Peter that she was locked up for a bank robbery that she
did not commit and that the case they’d been conferring on together of
late is her own. She wants him to clear her record. Peter gets Charlene
outside and locks the doors, panicked about how personally close the
whole situation has become. Then Charlene starts a scene out in the
front yard, setting dogs to howling through the left and right front
speakers of the surround sound system. Talking quickly, Charlene
blackmails Peter into letting her stay the night.
Chapter 3 opens with a loud snoring noise coming from the right front
speaker and eventually lighting up the subwoofer as the sound reaches
truly epic proportions. As Peter tracks the noise down, the viewer is
pulled along afterwards, discovering that the noise is coming from
After tricking Charlene into exiting the house, Peter goes to visit his
ex-wife and pick up the kids. Unfortunately, his wife has an added
dimension in her life these days: a young boyfriend who used to caddy
for Peter back when he had time for golf. Already down, Peter is
further upset when he returns home to find that Charlene has started a
house party that has taken over his house and spilled out into the
street. Hip-hop music slams through the surround sound system and sets
the subwoofer to throbbing. The best use of the Dolby 5.1 layered into
the DVD is the soundtrack. Every time loud party music underscores the
story, it blasts through the surround system.
In Chapter 4, Charlene shows up at Peter’s club where he’s meeting with
his new client. The “Jungle Love” sequence spins like liquid gold
through the surround sound, putting the viewer into the middle of the
scene and jacking up the hilarity level. Just as Peter is trying
desperately to get Charlene out of the club and Howie is trying to put
the make on her, Mrs. Arness shows up. Working quickly, Charlene proves
herself a shrewd negotiator as she forces Peter to agree to look into
her case. Peter passes Charlene off as his babysitter.
The story continues to wind tighter to a degree once the bargain is
struck, but whirls off in other avenues as well. Peter’s tramp
sister-in-law takes an instant dislike to Charlene, and in Chapter 5
their volatile natures burst free in an all-out girl fight that needs
to be seen to be believed. Most viewers will love a remote control at
this point, because few will be able to pass up the chance to back up
the DVD and watch the sequence again. Maybe even again and again.
Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” crashes through the surround sound
to underscore the action, and the subwoofer emphasizes the impacts. And
at the end, Charlene borrows a memorable line from “Bodyguard” that
Chapters 6 and 7 recall Sinbad’s “Houseguest” and John Candy’s “Uncle
Buck,” playing a familiar riff where Charlene sets out to solve the
family’s problems, which include little Georgie’s reading disability
and Peter’s and his daughter’s dating issues. Unfortunately, Charlene
uses a men’s magazine to encourage little Georgie’s reading habits. She
also agrees to go out with Peter, who’s gotten left behind by his kids
as they go off with their friends.
The restaurant scene in Chapter 6 starts out demure, but Charlene soon
has Peter out on the dance floor teaching him moves. When she does, the
music crescendos, screaming through the surround sound system again.
Chapter 7 showcases Charlene’s confrontation with Peter’s daughter’s
boyfriend. The music is loud there as well, and the boyfriend’s screams
rip through the speakers as Charlene brings her message home.
The rest of the movie progresses nicely, following conventional and
comfortable twists and turns. Howie’s attraction to Charlene remains a
constant source of levity as the stakes in Peter and Charlene’s life
get raised. Peter’s attempt to get into the ‘hood to discover the truth
about Charlene’s guilt in Chapter 11 is almost worth the price of the
DVD alone, and certainly is worth the rental fee.
The extras on the DVD package pass muster. The commentary by director
Adam Shankman and writer Jason Filardi covers a lot of ground and gives
some insight into how the picture came together. The gag reel is a hoot
and shows that the chemistry between the stars wasn’t confined to their
performances. The Queen Latifah music video pumps up the volume for the
surround sound system user. Eugene Levy’s “The Godfather of Hop” is
definitely not to be missed. Levy always delivers comedy a million
different ways, even though he generally sticks to the same kind of
anal-retentive character no matter which movie he’s in.
“Bringing Down The House” is a great movie for an evening at home. A
viewer just wanting light entertainment or a couple wanting a quiet
night together or a family looking for solid entertainment in a PG-13
format will enjoy this movie. Steve Martin fans will want to pick the
DVD up for the funky Steve dance in Chapter 11 alone, and this is some
of Queen Latifah’s best acting so far.
|English 5.1 Dolby Surround; French Language Track
|2.35:1, Enhanced For 16x9 Televisions
Scenes; Gag Reel; “Breaking Down ‘Bringing Down the House’ ”
Behind-The-Scenes; Queen Latifah Music Video “Better Than The Rest”;
“The Godfather of Hop” Featurette (a close-up look at Eugene Levy with
tongue firmly planted in cheek); “Da’ Commentary” With Director Adam
Shankman And Writer Jason Filardi; English Closed-Captioning
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