June 4, 2000 -- "Big Momma's House" is a fairly formulaic comedy along the lines of "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Stakeout," but it is rescued by a good performance by Martin Lawrence, some good supporting performances, a good soundtrack and great makeup effects.
As in "Stakeout," it is a story about a cop, Lawrence, who falls in love with the person he is supposed to be watching, the beautiful Sherry (Nia Long of "Boiler Room"). Lawrence "Blue Streak," plays FBI agent Malcolm. He and fellow agent John (Paul Giamatti of "Private Parts") are watching Sherry because she is supposed to be holding a lot of stolen money for her ex-boyfriend Lester (Terrence Dashon Howard of "The Best Man"), who just broke out of prison. Actually the agents are watching Sherry's grandmother's (Big Momma, played by singer Ella Mitchell) place, in case Sherry shows up.
Sherry and her son, Trent (Joshua Washington of "Enemy of the State") do place a call to Big Momma, who has left town for a couple of weeks, while Malcolm and John are in the house tapping the phones. Malcolm answers the phone and decides to invite Sherry to stay and to pretend to be Big Momma. There's an impressive sequence where John and Malcolm create the disguise, using and injection mold to make the latex face. Other devices are used to create the illusion of a rather large body.
There are a number of scenes which have the FBI agents sneaking in and out of Big Momma's house, which causes a neighbor to get suspicious. When Sherry and Trent arrive Malcolm really has his work cut out for him. He tries to fake his way through cooking, midwifery, testifying in church and other difficult tasks. When a couple of bullies throw Trent off the local basketball courts, Big Momma shows them up, setting some tough picks.
Malcolm hopes to get Sherry to tell him where the money is and to find out whether or not she was involved in the original robbery that netted the money. The problem is, he wants Sherry to tell him the truth, but he's not being honest with her, and he also desperately wants her to be innocent.
Parts of the story are funny, but I could have done without one particular semi-nude scene and the flatulence jokes that went with it. The madcap comedy scenes, with Malcolm and John scurrying around to keep the fiction going, went pretty well. Lawrence struck the right balance between a cop trying to find the truth and a guy falling in love with a beautiful woman. Nia Long, as she did in "Boiler Room" does a good job of playing a woman with both vulnerability and strength. Washington is good as the kid, and Howard is menacing as the bad guy. Anthony Anderson is good as a bumbling security guard who gets into the action.
What keeps the whole show believable are the makeup effects by Greg Cannom (he won an Oscar for his makeup effects in "Mrs. Doubtfire"). The viewer could not even start to believe this strange story without a great makeup job. The soundtrack was also very solid. There are not only good rhythm and blues tunes but some good gospel music as well. This film rates a B.
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