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Our review of Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, published May 18th, 2011, is also available.
Momma's got backup.
"I'm not even wearing a clean pair of granny panties."
Facts of the Case
FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence, Blue Streak) is a happy man: he's just been informed that his son Trent (Brandon T. Jackson, Tropic Thunder) has been accepted to Duke University. Unfortunately, Trent is far more interested in pursuing a career in hip-hop than in spending four years in college. The father/son bickering over the matter is temporarily placed on hold when Malcolm and Trent are forced to go into hiding after witnessing a murder. Malcolm decides the best solution is to take Trent along with him on an undercover assignment. The only problem? The assignment is to infiltrate an all-girls school. In order to fit in, Malcolm resurrects his alter ego "Big Momma" and Trent poses as his niece "Charmaine." As you might expect, much chaos ensues.
Let's be honest: this is the sort of film that is basically review-proof. Either you really want to see another film in which Martin Lawrence pretends to be an obese elderly woman, or you really don't. The Big Momma franchise has firmly established that it's not exactly up to the men-in-drag standards of Some Like it Hot; choosing to rely on the fact that many people find the very notion of Martin Lawrence in drag + fat suit will be funny enough on its own (in fairness, the series ranks a notch ahead of Tyler Perry's tonally fractured Madea flicks and several notches ahead of James Franco's Marilyn Monroe-themed Oscar appearance).
Still, it should be noted that those who enjoyed Big Momma's House are likely to enjoy Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son considerably less. Why? It's not the preposterous plotting, the abundance of gratuitous fat jokes or tiresome overload of gay paranoia, as those elements have all been in place from the beginning. The real problem with this installment is that Martin Lawrence just doesn't seem to be having any fun. Seeing Lawrence essaying Big Momma for an entire movie doesn't exactly qualify as a cinematic thrill, but seeing an unhappy, uncomfortable-looking Lawrence playing Big Momma is simply depressing.
Don't get me wrong; Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son was never going to be a good movie. The script is a predictable, ungainly mess that relies on both a laughably thin premise and a generous supply of uninspired gags. Still, once upon a time Lawrence played this role with at least some measure of enthusiasm. Now, his wheezes and sighs seem less like part of his Big Momma act than the actor's genuine exhaustion with the part. Contrast his clunky Big Momma scenes with the scenes in which Lawrence is simply permitted to be himself; the actor seems infinitely happier and more relaxed outside the fat suit. The best scene in the film is a little sequence in which Lawrence teaches Jackson a few old-school dance moves, simply because the two leads are freed from their cumbersome outfits and permitted to engage in a little cheerful improvisation.
Speaking of Jackson, his role is a terribly thankless one. He's given the inevitable subplot in which he cannot confess his love for a girl due to the fact that she thinks he is a she. It's the sort of storyline that writes itself, and given how unimaginatively it plays out, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened. If Jackson is being presented as the future of the Big Momma franchise, this installment does little to sell audiences on that idea. Jackson's a capable comic actor (see his performance as Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder as evidence), but he certainly doesn't display any noteworthy comic instincts in this particular role.
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son rolls onto Blu-ray sporting a slick, polished 1080p/2.40:1 transfer. While the movie looks kind of cheap (even sitcom-ish) much of the time, the level of detail is strong, black levels are rich and inky and flesh tones are warm and accurate. It's not a great-looking flick, but that's entirely the fault of the filmmakers. Audio is also sturdy, with a syrupy David Newman score and a variety of swaggering hip-hop tunes dominating the track. A couple of the musical numbers will cause your speakers to rumble a bit, but otherwise there's nothing to write home about. Dialogue is clean and clear, but the sound design tends to be overwhelmed by the musical clutter.
Extras include a commentary with director John Whitesell, producer David T. Friendly and actors Brandon T. Jackson, Jessica Lucas and Portia Doubleday, two featurettes (the tiresome "Bigger Busts Countdown" and "Song and Dance: Momma Style"), an extended version of the film (it's overlong already), a gag reel, some deleted scenes, and two music videos—including one for a song called "Lyrical Miracle." Ironically, the words "lyrical miracle" comprise the majority of the lyrics. You also get a DVD copy and a digital copy of the flick.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
On an entirely personal level, I will say that the opening credits sequence that features a variety of iconic Atlanta locations was nice to see. Non-Georgians may not feel the same.
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son is a terrible film, but it's the kind of movie so poorly-executed that you almost feel sorry for it. It's time to put Big Momma to bed.
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