Bringing Down the House  (2003)


Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy

Director: Adam Shankman

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: August 5, 2003
Review posted: August 5, 2003

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Peter Sanderson (Martin), a divorced, straight-laced, uptight, workaholic attorney, meets a brainy, bombshell lawyer in an online chat room and they make a date. Expecting his soul mate, he opens the door and finds himself face-to-face with Charlene (Latifah) - a wild and crazy soul sister who's just escaped from prison and wants Peter to clear her name. But Peter wants absolutely nothing to do with her, and that prompts Charlene to turn Peter's perfectly ordered life totally upside down. Hysterical complications abound and Peter soon finds out he may need Charlene just as much as she needs him.




I remember seeing Bringing Down the House in theaters after its first week of release. The attendance was rather large and most of the audience appeared to be Caucasian. An interesting thing happened about 30 minutes into the film. A family of four behind me got up and walked out, with the mother stating something to the effect of, “this is awful.” After the film was over I agreed with her. Bringing Down the House is awful because it relies so heavily on racial jokes and stereotypes of all kinds that it ends up nowhere near being funny. In fact, the film is downright offensive and unfunny. It’s too bad the woman wasn’t around after the show, because we could’ve talked for an hour discussing the bad points of the film.


Steve Martin gives an inspired performance, but where does it come from? The material is far from inspiring, and makes Martin’s Peter Sanderson a complete fool. Sure, he’s got problems, his wife and work, but hardly anything makes him interesting, save for Steve Martin who injects a little life into the weak character. Queen Latifah plays Charlene with a lot of energy, but most of it is wasted on stupid material. Her talents are completely wasted here, although Bringing Down the House boosted her film career as she is attached to more than just a few projects. Eugene Levy is Steve Martin’s sidekick more or less, falling in love with Charlene and talking unbelievably funny hip-hop jive, or at least his talk is supposed to be funny; it’s Eugene Levy after all. Director Adam Shankman makes a halfhearted impression, and screenwriter Jason Filardi’s script is downright bloated with unfunny moments and offensive material.


There really is no point in discussing this film further. I admit the story is at times amusing, but the execution of it is simply careless and offensive. Bringing Down the House is just not funny, that’s all. Martin and Latifah share hardly any chemistry, and Levy comes off as just a little too horny—I understand his obsession exists for comedic effect, but it doesn’t work. One last thought, if this unfunny and offensive film can break the $100 million barrier, what does that say about moviegoers? If Larry King calls it “one of the funniest movies ever,” you can rightfully assume something terrible is amiss.


The Video


Buena Vista presents Bringing Down the House in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The colors here are quite extraordinary and clean. The palette shows off some warm and bright colors, which makes color detail look pretty good. Interior scenes contain enough light and vibrancy to create a warm, smooth atmosphere. The print is clean as well, as there are no lines or scratches on it. Compression artifacts are also not present. Dark tones and black levels are mostly consistent, yet there is some grain present during the night scenes. Despite that, the rest of Bringing Down the House looks as bright and healthy as can be.


The Audio


Buena Vista presents Bringing Down the House in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Dialog is clear and easy to understand. The soundtrack is located predominantly in the front, although some of the songs in the film give off a loud experience. That is, while there are not many sound effects, the music soundtrack gives way to some good bass and all that. The rear speakers hardly ever come alive, and therefore remain quiet for most of the time. This film is essentially not designed to show off its auditory quality, but the sound is nevertheless clear and good enough to make for a decent presentation.


You can also choose to view the film in French Dolby Digital Stereo.


The Extras


Da’ Commentary – Director Adam Shankman and Screenwriter Jason Filardi have some good times talking on this track. They joke about the production, themselves, and other things. They keep their dialogue conversational, but hardly interesting. If you like the film you might get something interesting out of this commentary track, but other than that this is unproductive and generally weak.


Breaking Down Bringing Down the House (~17 mins) – There is not much making-of stuff in this featurette. Most of the time it’s just congratulatory praise or happy talk as it is also known. The interviews are conducted and structured in a way that allow just enough praise to go out to every major person involved with the film. There is enjoyable behind-the-scenes footage, but overall this is not very interesting.


7 Deleted Scenes (~8 mins) – I’m glad these aren’t in the film, because there is no need to have them in the film. These scenes don’t add a whole lot and they are basically redundant. There’s a little fun in them, but really nothing exciting. A commentary is not available; not that one is necessary, of course.


The Godfather of Hip-Hop (~4 mins) – Eugene Levy, aka U.G.-Dub, is the focus of this brief featurette that explains through interviews and on-set footage how he is the man behind hip-hop (not to mention it’s his middle name, too). The introduction here is kind of funny, but the rest is just odd.


Rounding out the extras is Queen Latifah’s “Better Than the Rest” music video, and a 4-minute gag reel, which isn’t funny at all—it’s just a montage of a variety of mishaps cut to a funky music beat. You also get the film’s Theatrical Trailer, plus bonus trailers for The Lion King DVD, Freaky Friday, Shanghai Knights, and Chicago. On a side note, while there are enough extras here to satisfy any DVD aficionado, the quality and enjoyment of these extras is somewhat unsatisfactory.


You can select to view the film with optional English subtitles. The DVD’s menus are somewhat animated, in an interesting way, although if you leave the main menu running for too long it becomes annoying very quick. The 105-minute feature is organized into twelve chapters.




The film is unfunny, offensive, and uninspiring in its material. Buena Vista offers a very fine/decent video and audio presentation, respectively, and there is a good amount of extras available. Bringing Down the House is not worth buying in terms of the film, but perhaps one can seek out a rental for the sake of the DVD presentation.









OVERALL (not an average)









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