Directed by: John Whitesell
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Zachary Levi, Kat Dennings
I never saw the original Big Momma's House, and I can safely say that the likelihood of my having seen its sequel if I hadn't been reviewing it is marginally less than the probability of my mounting a Himalayan expedition in search of the yeti.
The film follows in the footsteps of Martin Lawrence's last opus, Rebound, which is to say that it's part of the new-and-improved Lawrence -- the clean, sober, tug-at-the-heart-strings model. This isn't an entirely bad thing, since the old Martin Lawrence always struck me as more sleazy than funny or edgy, but this change nonetheless feels even more phony here than it did in Rebound. Maybe it's the incompatibility of the feel-good formula at work here with the more leering aspects of Lawrence's brand of humor -- a great deal of which appears to be predicated on the idea of a grown man being reduced to a gibbering idiot by the sight of bare bosoms or the idea of hot woman-on-woman action.
Of course, this being PG-13 Lawrence, we never actually see any of this, but are simply treated to the prospect of it -- like a dirty joke minus the punch line. This kind of thing had, as we say down home, already molded and haired-over when Bob Hope was painfully trying to be "with it" 40-plus years ago. In the case of Lawrence, however, implication is perhaps preferable to the actual depiction of hot rat-on-rat action we were treated to in Bad Boys II. So this could be a blessing in disguise.
The main reason Big Momma's House 2 doesn't work, though, is that it's simply bereft of ideas and characters. The script pretends there are characters, but they're generic to the point of invisibility. The bad guys are just that -- bad guys. The other FBI agents are just that -- FBI agents. The family for whom Lawrence is playing nanny is just a collection of types whose motives are never even hinted at. And so on. Everyone other than Lawrence threatens to evaporate because they're all nonentities for the star to react to and nothing more. So it's finally nothing but all-Lawrence all the time, and there's not a lot more to the movie than the basic idea that Lawrence as an obese old lady is intrinsically funny. Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and a humorous drug reference.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke