Big Momma's House 2

(2006) * 1/2 Pg-13
99 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: John P. Whitesell. Cast: Emily Procter, Zachary Levi, Mark Moses, Kat Dennings, Chloe Grace Moretz.

"JAMES BOND WILL RETURN." The overt promise of a sequel isn't a new phenomenon, but last week's intimation by Kate Beckinsale in Underworld: Evolution raised my radar. This week's promise comes from Martin Lawrence, who grins at the end of Big Momma's House 2, "Keep a lookout—you never know when Big Momma might be back." But let's worry about one thing at a time: for now, Big Momma is here.

FBI agent Malcolm Turner has "taken one" for the family by giving up field work and instead doing public-service appearances as Goldie the Safety Eagle. Goldie's disasterous show offers a legitimate laugh at the film's outset, but soon Malcolm's back on the job, when his old partner is slain. Insistent that he be put on the case, Malcolm is denied and must resort to a tried-and-false disguise: Big Momma. In a fat suit and wig, Malcolm takes on the archetypal persona of an elderly, down-home, African-American "momma."

The twist this time, such as it is, is that Big Momma must be a nanny to infiltrate the family home of a suspect. (Is it too much to hope that the sequel will be "Nanny McPhee vs. Big Momma"? Just asking...) So the "comedic" situations unfurl: Malcolm as Mr. Momma, giving tequila to the dog and throwing away the laundry; Big Momma teaching the kids "krunk" dancing; Big Momma in a towel at the spa (as Malcolm ogles the ladies); Big Momma in a swimsuit at the beach (a la Bo Derek in 10). Are we there yet?

The mystery plot is strictly rote, as are the character relationships (Nia Long and Dan Lauria return, briefly, as Malcolm's wife and boss, respectively). Worse, Big Momma's House 2 isn't very funny. Lawrence should be concerned that the biggest laugh in the movie is a toddler taking a running leap/face plant (repeatedly). I began at the end, so I'll end at the beginning. A pre-credit sequence goes something like this: the criminal suspect gets a threatening late-night phone call. His wife asks, "What was that about?" and the husband replies, "Nothing." Bam! The credits begin: Big Momma's House 2.

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