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Bringing Down the House(2003)
When a lonely guy meets a woman on the Internet who happens to be in prison, she breaks out to be with him, and proceeds to wreak havoc on his middle-class life.
For more about Bringing Down the House and the Bringing Down the House Blu-ray release, see Bringing Down the House Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on July 11, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Jean Smart, Kimberly J. Brown
Director: Adam Shankman
» See full cast & crew
Bringing Down the House Blu-ray Review
The only color that counts is funny.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, July 11, 2012
It's a wonder how a film like "Bringing Down the House" made it through the trials of script development and studio inspection. A racially charged comedy released roughly 30 years after such an enterprise could still be considered daring, the feature is a uncomfortable blend of hate and slapstick, greased down with a sitcom lubricant to aid mass appeal and to keep the more easily offended from throwing a fit after sitting through such nonsense. It's broad but terribly outdated material; however, upon its release in 2003 (making Disney's "10th Anniversary Edition" label a little bewildering), the movie was greeted with massive box office success, finding audiences eagerly devouring the shenanigans without a single thought paid to the toxic nature of the writing and direction. Perhaps completely and utterly relaxed is the only way to approach "Bringing Down the House," which isn't nearly as innocuous as it imagines itself to be. It's a difficult picture to swallow, submitting ugliness without the benefit of a sharp satirical mind leading the way. It's a wheezing, rusted machine of cheap jokes, cartoon performances, and crummy plotting, using shock value and insensitivity to make its painfully unfunny points.
In other words, it did not have me straight trippin', boo.
An uptight, overworked tax attorney, Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) takes comfort in his online chat room conversations with Charlene (Queen Latifah), a seemingly agreeable woman hunting for legal advice, striking up a little internet chemistry with the recently divorced father of two. Handed a most wealthy and demanding client in Virginia (Joan Plowright), Peter is ready to make a profound impression, helping him to squelch office competition emerging from Todd (Michael Rosenbaum). Unfortunately, Charlene has decided to pay Peter a visit after being released from prison, hoping the smitten man will help reverse her recent legal misfortune. Horrified to find an unkempt African-American woman standing before him, the nervous lawyer snaps, futilely attempting to get rid of Charlene before she ruins everything he's worked for. Agreeing to help his forceful houseguest in exchange for a muting of her dice-shootin' urban splendor, Peter and Charlene develop a crooked friendship, with the felon showing ease with children while bewitching his colleague, Howie (Eugene Levy). When Charlene's troubles deepen with the appearance of her old boyfriend, Widow (Steve Harris), Peter scrambles to protect his newfound pal while preserving his professional reputation and pining for his confused ex-wife, Kate (Jean Smart).
It's one thing to hand "Bringing Down the House" to the likes of Melvin Van Peebles, where his specialized way of thinking and general screen fearlessness could take the script by Jason Filardi to unexpected places, coasting along on cheekiness and racial volatility. It's another to hire Adam Shankman to helm the picture, who, at this point, was primarily known for his work on "The Wedding Planner" and "A Walk to Remember," two features basted in vanilla, barely creating a stir upon their respective releases. The former choreographer isn't exactly the first man that comes to mind when dreaming of a daredevil comedic architect, leaving "Bringing Down the House" at a severe disadvantage right out of the gate.
Shankman truly is the feature's largest detriment. Perhaps Filardi's screenplay doesn't supply the appropriate edge to sell the cultural divide concept with precision, yet in Shankman's care, "Bringing Down the House" is a single notch above a television pilot, offering small screen staging to communicate the comedy, with punchlines dutifully underlined and taboos spotlighted to create the intended effect of alarm. With bold cinematographic coloring and a winsome score by Lalo Schifrin, the movie makes every effort to appear approachable (at least for the first two acts), despite screenwriting that reinforces stereotypes and ugliness with every step it takes. Shankman revels in the puckish attitude of the picture, turning a showdown between Charlene and Peter's nasty ex-sister-in-law (Missi Pyle) into an extended wrestling match, and relishing any opportunity that arises for a Caucasian character to stumble through lines of Ebonics. There are also slave jokes, moments where Peter must prove his soulfulness (or lack thereof) on the dance floor, and a scene where Plowright's Virginia shares a joint in a downtown bar, changing her demeanor from upstanding to streetwise. And there's Betty White in a tiny supporting turn as Peter's bigoted neighbor, who dislikes African-Americans and Mexicans, also sharing homosexual slurs with a child. Old people and hate. It just doesn't get any funnier than that.
Mercifully, there's Steve Martin, working up a sweat in an attempt to keep "Bringing Down the House" as elastic as possible, distracting viewers with his animated work. It's not a particularly inspired performance from Martin, but it's energetic enough to keep the picture from becoming a complete disaster. The actor commits in full to the sight gags, including a closer where Peter douses himself in hip-hop attitude to infiltrate Widow's hangout. Again, none of it triggers bellylaughs, but Martin has a way of turning the material's boiling toxicity into a sip of cool lemonade. Co-star Latifah doesn't possess the same thespian inspiration, remaining shrill and hammy throughout.
Bringing Down the House Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (2.34:1 aspect ratio) presentation carries some light filtering, creating a slight blurring appearance with character movement, which can be distracting during extravagant displays of physical comedy. The bright palette is comfortably communicated, supplying a full feel for hues emerging from costumes and tastefully decorated interiors, while street sequences carry communicative colors as well. Skintones are also natural, retaining reassuring human qualities. Fine detail is satisfactory, sustaining facial nuances with bold reactions, also preserving set design particulars, offering a crisp sense of this world, with only a few sequences showing excessive softness, which registers as intentional. Clothing textures are satisfactory. Shadow detail is capable, but occasionally on the clotted side, with low-lit encounters losing a little HD impact while backgrounds solidify.
Bringing Down the House Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is a surprisingly subdued listening experience. With a soundtrack of hip-hop and R&B hits, there's really no force to the track, with low-end keeping to a moderate response, while surrounds are barely utilized, primarily employed to feel out room echo. The mix carries a frontal presence, successfully capturing frantic dialogue exchanges and the nuances of language, with nothing stepped on despite the wide range of performance styles. Scoring is layered into the central flow of the film without smothering voices. There are barely any circular elements to grab hold of the listener, and while the exclusion of a surround sensation is missed, the simplicity of the movie is perhaps most comfortable in this form.
Bringing Down the House Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Bringing Down the House Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's tough not to come across uptight when discussing the activities of "Bringing Down the House," and I'm sure a case could be made that a celebration of racial discomfort is a rather brave endeavor in our politically correct age. If only the movie had laughs to back up its iffy worldview. Instead, Shankman turns to gunplay to close out the story, introducing violence to artificially crank up the tension, again furthering stereotypes while clinging to dreary formula to find a way out of this mess. The lackluster conclusion doesn't exactly derail "Bringing Down the House," but it does emphasize the general absence of leadership behind the camera, with Shankman stumbling through this assembly of bug-eyed reactions. It's an unimaginative offering of direction, forcing an unnecessarily callous effort to dance merrily when perhaps the best approach would've been subversion, unnerving the audience with confrontational, culture-minded stings while keeping its jazz hands high. Instead, Shankman just wants to make a juicy mainstream comedy, treating prejudice like a carefree summer vacation.
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Bringing Down the House Blu-ray, News and Updates
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