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Bringing Down The House (2003)

He doesn’t know what he’s let himself in for

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 105 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A

Optimistic proclamations that this movie is the one that finally sees Steve Martin propelled back to his very best are perhaps a little wide of the mark – but, at the very least, he's certainly back on course.

Martin plays stuffy tax attorney Peter Sanderson, a lonely divorcee driven to seeking companionship in internet chat rooms. He thinks he's found the new love of his life when a mysterious stranger going under the name of "lawyer girl" agrees to meet up with him at his house – but is in for a shock when the slinky blonde he was expecting turns out to be convicted crim Charlene (Queen Latifah).

Succumbing to a particularly strong line in persuasion, Peter eventually agrees to let Charlene stay in his home while he takes a look at her case – she claims she was in the slammer for a crime she didn't commit. A likely story, thinks Pete.

After a slow start that points largely towards outright disappointment, "Bringing Down the House" gets progressively funnier as Martin sheds his stuffed-shirt persona and gradually cranks up the trademark wackiness. Latifah, meanwhile, brings such verve and enthusiasm to the proceedings that you can't help but warm to her. Also playing more than just a bit-part is Eugene Levy, who produces plenty of laughs as Peter's legal firm co-worker.

Much of the premise behind the film is stereotypical racial fish-out-of-water stuff, and the best thing by far to be said about the plot is that, unlike this year's horrific "National Security", it deserves kudos for lampooning racism rather than perpetrating it. But Martin, Latifah and Levy all excel in their roles to save what would otherwise be a deeply mediocre experience. In the process, they manage to provide us with some of the best comedy moments of the year.

Steve Martin has made much, much better films than this, and Queen Latifah displays more than enough potential to suggest that she'll go on to do likewise. But, for now, it's best not to take the content of "Bringing Down The House" too seriously and instead enjoy it as entertaining, if not exceptional, comedy escapism.

It's Got: Some good comedy chemistry between Martin and Latifah.

It Needs: A funnier script to get bigger and better laughs out of an excellent cast.


Neither highly original nor exceptionally funny, but well enough performed to make it worth catching.