Big Momma’s House

Big Momma’s House (2000)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Terrence DaShon Howard, Jascha Washington, Ella Mitchell
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Make-up Test, Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, Music Videos, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Bonus Trailer

While we expect trends from Hollywood, who would’ve ever guessed that we would have two films featuring famous comedic actors dressed as overweight, old women open within two months of each other? And considering the success of both "Big Momma’s House" and "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps", it can only be assumed that American’s were hungry for this kind of entertainment. Now, that competition continues as the DVD release dates for the two films come only one week apart. While "Nutty Professor II" has a built-in audience with fans of the first film, will people flock to "Big Momma’s House" to see what’s cooking? We’ve taken a look at the DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and we’re here to tell you whether or not the film is a drag.

"Big Momma’s House" stars Martin Lawrence as FBI agent Malcolm Turner. At the outset of the film, we learn that Malcolm is a man of action and a master of disguise. (He appears to be Bruce Willis and Rick Baker rolled into one!) When a violent bank-robber escapes from prison, Malcolm and his partner John (Paul Giamatti) are assigned to stake-out the felon’s girlfriend, Sherry (Nia Long). But, before the duo can get to her, Sherry heads for Georgia, where her grandmother lives. So, Malcolm and John head to Georgia to beat Sherry there. At first, the two agents simply plant bugs and cameras in the home of Big Momma (Ella Mitchell), but when she suddenly leaves town to help a sick friend, Malcolm decides that he will impersonate Big Momma in order to lure Sherry into confessing what she knows about the bank robbery and the jail-break.

So, Malcolm designs a Big Momma costume and mask and puts his plan into effect. He’s easily able to fool Sherry when she arrives, as the two haven’t seen each other in years. What Malcolm didn’t count on was Big Momma’s friends, or her brazen beau Ben (Carl Wright). So, while Malcolm is trying to coax Sherry into telling her secrets, he’s having to convince the rest of the town that he is Big Momma. Malcolm also didn’t count on being charmed by Sherry and her young son, Trent (Jascha Washington). While John continues with the stakeout, and with the villain coming for Sherry, Malcolm must maintain his disguise and find a way to save the day.

Now, before I get on my soapbox, let me say that "Big Momma’s House" isn’t a bad movie. It’s well-made, well-paced, and funny where it needs to be. The film has a certain charm and there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and a half. The problem with the film is that it doesn’t live up to the talent of Martin Lawrence. The material here is feather-light and it can’t give Martin the breathing room he needs to excel. The script has all of the depth of an episode of "Three’s Company" at times, and Lawrence looks bored in some scenes. Let’s face it, Martin Lawrence saying "ass" non-stop was funny in 1992, but it just seems tired and old now.

If you need any further proof of my opinions, just look at the outtakes from which are featured on the DVD. In these bloopers, we see Martin Lawrence ad-libbing like crazy and these scenes are much funnier than most of the film. (Of course, judging by some of the raw language in these outtakes, it’s obvious why they didn’t make it into the film.) It would appear that the Big Momma suit that Lawrence is forced to wear has somehow stifled his comic genius. Perhaps Lawrence wanted to follow Eddie Murphy and make a "safe" film, but if you’ve seen "Nutty Professor II", you know that Murphy is far from "safe" these days.

Sure, "Big Momma’s House" is cute and harmless, but is that what we want from Martin Lawrence? While the film is light-years better than the DOA "Blue Streak", "Big Momma’s House" is still a paint-by-numbers comedy that like Big Momma’s cooking – looks good, but also makes you feel cheated afterwards.
With "Big Momma’s House", 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has brought us a DVD that contains a houseful of nice features. The film is presented in a <$THX,THX>-certified digital transfer. The image has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1 and is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. Like Fox’s other recent THX approved transfers, "Big Momma’s House" looks fantastic. The image is razor-sharp with just a scant trace of grain during the daylight scenes. The film appears to be accurately <$PS,letterboxed> and there is no sign of noise or artifacting. The colors on the DVD image look extra nice, and this is especially evident during the scene in the church, as the vibrant robes of the choir and the colorful dresses of the congregation stand out. The clarity of the image works so well that you can clearly see the pictures on the small video surveillance monitors that are always in the background during the scenes involving Malcolm and John. This transfer of "Big Momma’s House" doesn’t need any renovations.

The audio on the DVD is almost as big as Big Momma herself. The <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> soundtrack offers a wide dynamic range and is the perfect accompaniment to the film. The film is loaded with Rhythm &Blues music, and the bass is nicely channeled through the subwoofer. Being a comedy, there isn’t a great deal of response from the rear speakers, but what little there is comes across as realistic and well-balanced. The dialogue is clear and audible and there is no apparent hiss on the soundtrack.

You may need to book a room in "Big Momma’s House" in order to make it through all of the extra features. We first have an <$commentary,audio commentary> with director Raja Gosnell and producer David Friendly. This is a very laid-back commentary, but the duo have quite a bit of information to share with us about the film. While neither is the most dynamic speaker, the commentary is very informative, as the two share stories about the origins of the film and the production. Some of the most interesting anecdotes concern the short schedule in which the film was completed.

Also related to the making of the film, we have a 24-minute featurette entitled, "Building Big Momma’s House." This is your typical studio-fare behind-the-scenes featurette, where there are more scenes from the actual movie than scenes from the set. There are interviews with the cast and crew, and some brief shots of Martin Lawrence’s make-up being applied. Probably the most interesting aspect of this piece are the comments from special-effects make-up artist Greg Cannom on the preparation of the Big Momma suit. It also includes some annoying moments where actors describe in-depth a moment from the movie that we’ve just watched.

Speaking of special-effects make-up, we’re treated to a look at the make-up test that was shot to determine how the Big Momma suit and mask looked on Martin Lawrence. In this short clip, Lawrence, who’s obviously ad-libbing, hosts a fictional cooking show as Momma and teaches the audience how to cook "fried ass." Needless to say, this brief scene is very funny. But, as I mentioned before, the funniest part of the DVD are the bloopers and outtakes in which Lawrence just lets it all hang out. I was literally crying with laughter while watching these scenes.

The film originally opened with an animated title sequence, and this is presented on the DVD, and can be viewed with or without commentary by director Raja Gosnell. Likewise for one other deleted scene, featuring the violent prison escape, which didn’t fit the tone of the film. The theatrical trailer for "Big Momma’s House" is on the DVD, as well as a bonus trailer for "Me, Myself, & Irene" and a number of TV Spots. For fans of R&B, there are two music videos on the DVD, "Bounce with Me" by Lil’ Bow Wow and "I’ve Got to Have It", from Jermaine Dupri featuring Nas and Monica.

If you couldn’t get enough of the Grandma Klump character from the "Nutty Professor" films, than "Big Momma’s House" may be your next stop. While the film may be a bit stale and sterile, the sight on Martin Lawrence dressed as a 300-pound woman is funny, there’s no doubt about that. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has given us a 300-pound DVD (approximate weight) that has a gorgeous transfer, and lots of other goodies. "Big Momma’s House" isn’t a place that I like to live, but the visit wasn’t all that bad.