Frankly, I'm at a loss when it comes to discussing something as insipid as 'Bringing Down the House.' From Adam Shankman, who also tortured audience with 'The Pacifier' and 'Bedtime Stories,' the often-offensive movie continuously pulls the rug out from under our feet and calls it entertainment. At first, we're lead to believe Steve Martin and Queen Latifah will eventually get past each other's differences and discover they secretly love one another. The end result, of course, is the furthest from that expectation, and what we're actually given is a strange brew of racial jokes and stereotypes that made me cringe with embarrassment for the cast.
The script by by-then first-timer Jason Filardi commences with a very familiar rom-com setup, uniting two unlikely people who slowly form a bond through a series of unrealistic circumstances. Here, Martin plays a divorced attorney having trouble keeping promises to his two children (Kimberly J. Brown and Angus T. Jones) and living in a well-to-do neighborhood. Latifah is a woman from the other side of Los Angeles, claiming her innocence to a bank robbery after already serving four years in the penitentiary. The two meet in a chat room and decide to one day see each other on a blind date. The obligatory jokes about misrepresentation and the huge cultural differences between them quickly follow, but the best they can muster is a smile, which feels overly generous.
One physical gag after another creates an impression that Martin's Peter and Latifah's Charlene will discover how good they are for one another. She teaches the uptight lawyer to loosen up and live life while showing him how to relate to his children. He teaches the spur-of-the-moment ex-convict . . . how to . . . well, actually, he doesn't appear to provide any influence for Charlene. The real clincher — the failed romantic comedy aspect — comes after the two make it home a little tipsy and a racist busybody neighbor, played by the always wonderful Betty White, finds the two getting a little physical. As before, the best the scene can muster is a smile; this time out of embarrassment for Martin thinking he was being funny.
The whole thing is undermined not so much because Peter's friend and colleague, Howie (Eugene Levy), turns out to be a better match for Charlene, but because the narrative also fancies itself as a comedy of manners. Does the script really want to tackle the socio-cultural divide and satirize racial stereotypes, or does it merely reinforce them? It's a daunting question I leave viewers to decide for themselves. As for me, it can be funny — at least, on paper — to see the cultural clash within the family, but it's still a little disturbing that Charlene's presence in an all-white neighborhood and a fancy country club has to be excused as the hired help. Sure, the movie confronts those issues with some light jabs, but it never genuinely challenges them, unless you consider Latifah's ridiculous cat-fight with Missi Pyle as part of that effort. In the end, the possibilities are swept under the rug in favor of restoring Charlene's innocence.
Yeah, I'm definitely baffled by the point of 'Bringing Down the House.' It's a comedy that makes attempts at romance but goes in a different direction than the initial setup. It takes a few cultural jabs that are more cringe-inducing than funny. And it all concludes with a heavily-contrived happily-ever-after which ultimately feels artificial and hollow. What I'm sure about is that I don't care for it and have absolutely no desire to be reminded of its existence ever again. Despite featuring a really great performance from Queen Latifah, which is basically wasted on a bad movie, the movie is ultimately pedestrian and uninspiring, coming nowhere close what its title implies.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment releases 'Bringing Down the House' to Blu-ray as a 10th Anniversary Edition. Housed inside a blue eco-lite keepcase, the Region Free, BD50 disc starts with a series of skippable trailers before switching to the standard main menu screen with still and music.
The no-so-funny comedy brings down Blu-ray with a shockingly good AVC-encoded transfer that will surprise most everyone. Looking like a fresh, new remaster, possibly from the OCN, the 2.35:1 picture frame displays comfortably bright contrast with crisp whites and deep, accurate black levels, allowing background info to be perfectly visible and generating a great deal of depth. The color palette is energetic and lively with bold primaries everywhere. Facial complexions appear natural with excellent textural definition. The video is also highly detailed, with distinct lines in clothing, foliage, and the Los Angeles architecture.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack isn't impress as well as the video, but it's still pretty good and makes a fine complement. It's a noticeably front-heavy presentation with excellent dialogue reproduction and nicely balanced channel separation. The soundstage is broad and welcoming, delivering a sharply-defined mid-range and clean acoustical details of the movie's few high points. There are decent moments of discrete effects in the rears, but it's unconvincing and mostly unsatisfactory. The only scene worth noting is towards the end inside a nightclub with music filling the room, pleasantly enhancing the soundfield. There are also some respectable and robust mid-bass levels during the same sequence, reminding listeners there is a subwoofer in the room.
Disney offers the surprising box-office hit to Blu-ray with the same collection of supplements seen on the DVD release.
Starring Steve Martin as the uptight lawyer and Queen Latifah as the sassy black woman who teaches him how to loosen up, 'Bringing Down the House' is a generally unfunny but often offensive mess of a comedy. There's little to appreciate in this shocking box-office hit, let alone much else to say about it. The Blu-ray surprises with an excellent picture quality and a very good audio presentation. Bonus material is the same as previous DVD releases, but this 10th Anniversary Edition is worth the purchase for the film's few fans out there.