Category Archives: queen latifah

Bringing Down the House

BRINGING DOWN THE RACES

A Film Review of Bringing Down the House

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

While there are a lot of good things about this film I left the theatre with a bad taste in my mouth. It was chock full of black folks/white folks humor and racial stereotypes that might have worked in the 1970s but feel distinctly out of place in the 21st century. I think it was best said by Steve Buscemi in Ghost World – that racism now and racism then are exactly the same it was just more out in the open then which I guess really means we’re better at hiding it now.

It’s wonderful to see Steve Martin doing physical comedy again. It seems like it’s been forever and a million bad movies since the days of the original “Saturday Night Live” and The Jerk. Great to have him back, age and numerous bad scripts haven’t diluted his comedic talent.

Queen Latifah is as good as ever although it must be said this is the worst I’ve seen her. Watching her tap and shuffle for a joke is disturbing at times almost as bad as Eugene Levy (“Second City TV”) and Steve Martin playin’ homies. A hilarious yet racially motivated bathroom catfight between Latifah and Missi Pyle (who I absolutely loved in Josie and the Pussycats) early on in the film should have been a sign of things to come.

Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor of “Smallville”) also does a nice turn as a back-stabbing ass-kissing lawyer (is there any of kind?). Check out his rug. Betty White is also a delight. I hated her on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Golden Girls” but here and Lake Placid she shines. I guess she ages well. And when the story turns decidedly dark and serious toward the end Eugene Levy’s witty presence is all that saves it.

Quite a bit of the plot however made me think I was watching an old episode of “Bewitched.” We had Betty White as the snooping and disapproving neighbor as well as Steve Martin constantly on the run to keep a client on the run from his not-so-normal home life. Come to think of it Latifah did perform some miracles that nose-twitching might have been required.

Disturbing racism aside it’s a pretty predictable Disney family film in the spirit of The Kid and The Princess Diaries. Yep, Disney. I think of things like Priest and Powder (let’s not even mention Kids, oops, already did) and lighter fare like this and I get the feeling sometimes that old Walt is in a perpetual spin in his cryogenic chamber. I laughed a few times but I wished I hadn’t afterwards.

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Chicago

“SO HOW MUCH FOR THE RIGHTS TO ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S CHESS?”

A Film Review of Chicago

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

So how much for the film rights to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Chess? Or how about his Aspects of Love? Because judging by the critical success of Chicago, bad musicals is what Hollywood wants and I want some of that free cash too.

I’m not saying Chicago is a bad movie, it’s not, by no stretch of the imagination – I just want to know how it has swept the Oscar nominations this year. Now I’m not going to argue with the supporting actor and actress noms. John C. Reilly is damned good here and Queen Latifah is always amazing – she’s deserved the Oscar back in 1998 for Living Out Loud. It’s the nominations for Gere, Zellweger and Zeta-Jones I have issues with.

Yeah, ooh, ahh, they can sing and dance, big deal. Back in the olden days of Hollywood there was prerequisite to acting ability. And acting ability is what the coveted Oscar is all about. These three walk through these roles and they are capable of much more. If we’re giving out Academy Awards for bodies of work rather than an individual film then these nominations are fine. To me, they just don’t deserve it for Chicago.

The film does deserve acclaim. It’s a good old fashioned musical as opposed to new wave rock versions like Josie and the Pussycats and Hedwig and the Angry Inch which were just as good but unfortunately failed miserably critically. As a matter of fact the only thing that removes Chicago from the ranks of classics like Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story is the dizzying cut and run MTV camera angles and shifts. Not good in an old fashioned musical.

My other complaint is that the songs are a bit too telegraphed even for a musical, you can almost know when to look at your watch and say time for a song. I suppose that may be unavoidable but it doesn’t seem that obvious to me in other classics of the genre.

The rest of the cast are standouts especially Lucy Liu and Mya and best of all, Christine Baranski is marvelous as Mary Sunshine – her performance here almost makes up for her being in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Almost. I don’t forgive easily.

Now don’t let me talk anyone out of seeing Chicago, it’s excellent. There is a rule about movies about expectation. If a film is better than you expected when you went in – it’s a good movie. The hype for this one killed it for me. The critics and the Oscar nominations had me expecting a masterpiece. Just goes to show you what critics know. 🙂