|Bringing Down the House (2003)
Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy
Director: Adam Shankman
"Bringing Down the House" is a very slow-paced comedy that eventually picks up in the end, but it's Queen Latifah who simply upstages co-star Steve Martin, saving the film despite all its bad jokes and blatant racism. Peter Sanderson (Martin) is an uptight, workaholic tax attorney who is separated from his wife and has most recently spent a lot of his time on the Internet chatting to a woman he eventually decides to meet face-to-face. In comes Charlene (Latifah), a street-smart ex-con who claims to be innocent of her crimes and soon becomes an annoying mess in Peter's life until he promises to work on her case and clear her name.
One of the most unsettling parts to this film is its eccentrically racist villains, obviously the work of the script's shock-factor humor. Charlene has various run-ins with these characters, from Peter's gold-digging former sister-in-law (Missi Pyle) to his high-class, Elizabethan client Mrs. Arness (Joan Plowright), and finally to his extremely racist neighbor played by Betty White. Most of the jokes in "House" are way off target and never work but some, when they are successful, are just hilarious. With scenes like Latifah's catfight with Pyle in a country club bathroom and Martin's sudden comedic reemergence at the end of the film, the two actors do their best to rescue this horrible script from its own ineffectiveness.
While Martin performs well, he's not at his best, and it's ultimately Latifah who steals the show, displaying her improving acting chops again, fresh off her Best Supporting Actress Award nomination for "Chicago." While "Bringing Down the House" as a whole isn't too much to look at, for Latifah it marks another impressive victory on her road to becoming a significant female film star.