Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (2011)

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About five years ago I had the pleasure of taking some classes about theater.  My professor made the rather bold proclamation that there is one thing in this world that is always funny - a man in a dress.  While I will say that I chuckled a few times watching Martin Lawrence pop and lock in his putty makeup and dress, I can't say that anything in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son is particularly funny or noteworthy.  Just Lawrence shakin' his booty here and there.

To be fair, I particularly enjoyed the first film in the series.  Martin Lawrence can be pretty damn funny when he wants to be (check out his role in the remake of Death At A Funeral if you need convincing) and there was a nice supporting role for Paul Giamatti in there.  Not a bad set up, not a bad flick.

But this is the third time that the writers have had to contrive a reason to get Lawrence's character, Malcolm Turner, into costume.  I don't envy their jobs, especially since the only time the series was funny it was already a partial rip-off of Some Like It Hot.  Well, they decided to go the full monty this time, dropping any pretense of "kind-of" ripping off SLIH and just taking the plot wholesale.

Scanning for signs of interest off-screen. A noble but foolhardy effort.

It's a double-wammy because not only do you get plenty of material for a sequel but you also have a way of shoehorning in Malcolm's stepson Trent (Brandon T. Jackson) into the plot.  Basic conflict, Trent is a rapper extraordinaire (in the universe of Big Mommas, anyway) and wants to pursue his musical dreams.  Malcolm wants him to drop the pretense that he's a good rapper and attend Duke University.  Because no one knows how to multitask in movies, this leads to conflict and a strange set of contrivances where Trent and Malcolm are fleeing from some Russian gangsters.

At this point they don the dresses and slip into an all-girls art school where they fight off biological impulses and snotty brats.  The Russians pretty much disappear until the plot remembers that they exist so that we can have a climax.  The general cast has to behave like a bunch of idiots that can't see through syurupy makeup.  This is dumb stuff that can't even operate on the basic pretense that it's entertaining.

There's a fundamental flaw to a lot of the way director John Whitesell approaches the comedy in Big Momma's.  He seems to think that having Lawrence and Jackson stand there in drag is enough.  So there are the aforementioned booty popping moments, but that's about it.  Even the things that might have been funny are completely cut out for no apparent reason.

For example, we get so many lengthy sequences of dancing and singing that I could have sworn that this was a Dreamworks movie.  None of those are amusing or even very interesting musically.  Now why is that in, but the process of getting Jackson into the dress is completely cut out?  Wasn't there a moment where his character would have gone, "Now golly gee, this sure seems a dumb way to hide from Russians."  We don't even get to see him struggle to try on dresses or finding the right one.

Why does this work?

There was a genuine creative spark to some parts of the first film.  Big Momma delivering a baby with a turkey baster and oven-mitt?  Well, the situation is trite but the execution is funny so it works.  Big Momma playing Twister with a man that doesn't know he's a she?  Tedious and overlong with a conclusion so foregone that we're waiting for the movie to play catch up to it's own punchline.

So what we get is a film filled with cliches from so many movies it becomes difficult to say what was even kind of necessary.  Art is involved, so we'll get assorted drama queens.  School is involved so we'll get a queen bee trying to assert her dominance over Big Momma and everyone else.  Heck, they even manage to throw in a big show at the end so that everyone has a reason to stand and applaud once the bad guys are caught and so on.

What I've learned from these films is that Malcolm Turner is not a particularly good police officer.  He has difficulty accomplishing the most basic of tasks (like maintaining surprise when he has someone at gunpoint) and creates some of the most monumentally horrible ideas for hiding people.  There could have been laughs, a soft could but it's there, in creating some kind of tension by having the characters acknowledge just how absurd this all is.

Given that this is the third in a series involving Martin Lawrence in drag, maybe they just felt it would be redundant to point out that absurdity.

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Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (2011)

Directed by John Whitesell.
Screenplay by Matthew Fogel.
Starring Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson.

Posted by Andrew

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