Movie Reviews

bellview--i love movies

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

Movie Awards
2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup


"Bringing Down the House"

Directed by Adam Shankman.
Written by Jason Filardi.
Starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  3/25/03


The table was set.  I used a free pass I had to see “Bringing Down the House”, the Steve Martin/Queen Latifah comedy that opened up two weeks ago.  They gave me a free popcorn and free soda when I used my free pass at the Kabuki Theaters.  I rolled in five minutes before the flick started, got the best seat in the house--front row, balcony--and cozied up to lots of leg room and both armrests.  The previews started, and they were not too bad--got the longer version of “Bruce Almighty” (with Jim Carrey), that Eddie Murphy flick about a daycare didn’t look too bad, and got the “X2” preview once again.  I was, as the kids like to say, “hangin’ out.”

Then, the movie started.  One thing’s for sure--were it not for Betty White, as a wealthy racist neighbor who uttered the laugh-out-loud line about Latinos in a rich neighborhood:  “Well, if [that Latin guy] wasn’t carrying a leaf blower, I don’t know what he was doing in our neighborhood!”--I and the rest of our audience wouldn’t have laughed for a solid 30 minutes of screen time to start the movie.

And, it didn’t get much better from there; a classic “all the good jokes are in the trailer” film, “Bringing Down the House” has some of the most predictable race relations jokes you have ever seen, and by the time Martin and Latifah really get lukewarm-funny, I had already made up my mind about the film.  Martin plays a tax lawyer that thinks he is about to go out on a blind date with a tall blonde he met in an Internet chat room...until he meets Charlene (Latifah), the real girl from the chat room that happens to be an ex-con looking for a lawyer to clear her good name.  All of this is just a setup for the writers to provide us with enough chances for some Straight-Outta black stereotypes school jokes, and of course, for the Stiff White People to Learn From the Black Way of, what were there, 125 jokes where a white character looks at Charlene and makes some sort of “Look, Aunt Jemima!” crack?  In what has to be the most untracked streak of all time, this was the 419th straight film where young black people were shooting dice, breaking the old record of 418 straight films where a black character yelled out “Domino, muthafucka!” at the top of his lungs during a dominoes game.

(You know what’s amazing about this requirement of black culture in films?  Prior to moving to San Francisco, I have been to plenty a black house party, family gathering and Sunday picnic...and, at about 95% of them, there were black people playing Spades.  I have seen something like 8 billion films, but I can’t remember a SINGLE FUCKING ONE OF THEM that has a scene where a character throws down an ace of spades and says “I’m CUTTIN’ you, muthafucka!  Untapped genius and it’s right there for the takin’!)

The newest streak that is on the rise--and, it really has begun to frighten me--is the number of times a white character has to utter some form of “Off da hizzy fo’ shizzy, dough” in a really stiff white voice, preferably while amped on weed or any other recreational form of drug use.  “Bringing Down the House” only has a couple of scenes like that, but from the looks of it, I am going to have to suffer through at least five more films this year that have a character saying that, as “Head of State” leads the pack of these films.  (Oh man, does that trailer look BAD!  By the time I have to watch those three older white folks doing that rendition of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”, I keep looking for my Porta-Razor!!)  Maybe those other films will all be better than this drivel, because besides White’s character, a dance scene with Martin in ghettogear late in the film and a so-wrong-I-couldn’t-believe-it scene where an old white woman sings a slave spiritual for Charlene, “Bringing Down the House” wasn’t even enjoyable FOR FREE!  And, I was in a good mood when I walked in!  With free food!  And good previews!  That should tell you all you need to know.

Rating:  Rental


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09