Big Momma's House 2

The central joke of Big Momma's House 2 is essentially the same one the first film told: that it's funny when a comic actor dresses up in drag and performs a lot of silly antics in the name of comedy. Indeed, there are moments of amusement in seeing Martin Lawrence in the fat suit, polka-dotted dress, and blonde wig of Big Momma, who is herself a fictional creation of Lawrence's character, Malcolm. It wasn't enough to make the first film work, although that one was among the few big-screen comedies to successfully utilize Lawrence (by all accounts, a good comedian with a strong sense of timing and an under-appreciated deadpan).

It's not nearly enough to sustain this sequel, a remarkably lazy continuation of Malcolm's story, which finds the F.B.I. agent avenging the death of his former partner despite having no access or upward movement in the agency. Here, he's been demoted to work in the public relations department, although he has no real problem with that. His wife Sherri (Nia Long) is with child, and his stepson resents him for his tendency to dress up in mascot-like costumes on the behalf of safety messages for elementary and middle schools in the area. Malcolm wants a quieter life, but then his partner dies under mysterious circumstances.

Those lead him to dress up once again as Big Momma to infiltrate the living quarters of a busy and rambunctious household, which leads to the only funny sequence in the movie: Malcolm, as Big Momma, undermines and undercuts the competition in her way as nanny to the young children in the household, including the undercover agent already installed by upper-level agents (played by Marisol Nichols and Zachary Levi). The scene emphasizes Lawrence's uncanny ability to play absurd situations with a straight face, and that might be why it's so disappointing that many of those situations must involve physical humor of the slapstick variety.

Eventually, plot must set in, but screenwriter Don Rhymer and director John Whitesell seem entirely disengaged with all of it. Malcolm oversees the care of three children - the rebellious teenager Molly (Kat Dennings), the eight-year-old Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz), and the reckless toddler Andrew (played by twins Preston and Trevor Shores) - while investigating their father Tom (Mark Moses) and officials at his computer company for corruption and dealing with his helicopter mom of a wife, Leah (Emily Procter), whose tyrannical scheduling leads, of course, to a much-needed Life Lesson for the mother.

The filmmakers mostly care, however, about the pratfalls (of which there are far too many, especially when one loses count of how many times little Andrew falls or jumps from high places), the silly situations (such as Sherri's entirely avoidable misunderstanding of Malcolm's intent, which sends her off an investigation of her own that entirely depends on her refusing to listen to reason), and the gimmick of Big Momma. Lawrence's solid performance, lost amid a torrent of goofiness, sadly doesn't help much. Big Momma's House 2 betrays the actor's charm and is also genuinely desperate and depressing on its own.

Film Information

Martin Lawrence (Malcolm/Big Momma), Nia Long (Sherri), Emily Procter (Leah), Zachary Levi (Kevin), Mark Moses (Tom), Kat Dennings (Molly), Chloe Grace Moretz (Carrie).

Directed by John Whitesell and written by Don Rhymer.

Rated PG-13 (sexual humor, a humorous drug reference).

99 minutes.

Released on January 27, 2006.

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