Posted by: greercn | February 22, 2011

Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son

Mick Jagger once said that it didn’t take much to get an Englishman to dress up as a woman. Martin Lawrence is one of the funniest actors ever. But Martin might not have predicted that frou frou frocks, body padding and wild wigs would provide a whole new American movie career.  Big Momma 3? I have a feeling I have seen 1 and 2, in the company of teenagers. But 3? Why?

Seeing this was entirely due to a provocative remark made by a friend. I said “sure” without thinking.  I did a little research on the first two films, but I needn’t have bothered. There were no nuances to miss.

What there is has to be some of the loveliest slapstick and physical comedy on film. Really. The first scene has Martin as an FBI agent terrorizing his mailman (Ken Jeong, who is someone to watch out for in future). The staging and choreography of this feels very grand guignol or even worthy of Buster Keaton at his best. That surprised me as I was expecting the visually execrable and cringe-worthy.

The next few scenes are a little flat. An FBI operation goes wrong, Martin’s son sees a murder and dad and teenager go on the run, to a school for girls that specialises in performing arts.  Once Big Momma moves into drag and into the school, this becomes a very funny film indeed.

Believe it or not, I rolled onto the floor laughing as many of the scenes are genuinely hilarious. Gags are of the corny variety, but I have a special place in my heart for those.

Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty’s pretty sister) is in charge at the school and plays the (almost) straight person here, but even she gets a few laughs. An uncredited Faizon Love plays caretaker Kurtis Kool and – oh my – he is just utterly hilarious.

Brandon T Jackson plays the son and his dressing up as a woman provides some mirth too.   Jessica Lucas as the love interest and Michelle Ang as a young diva are both wonderful.

Quite a lot of the inspiration comes from “Sister Act” although the cross dressing owes more to the great British tradition of pantomime than it does to any American movie.

The settings use Atlanta to maximum advantage. It’s great to see the Olympic Park well used and still looking terrific. It makes you want to go to Georgia on holiday.

Of the others here, Max Casella, Henri Lubatti,  Lorenzo Pisoni and Tony Curran will all be massive stars, very soon. Again, all display great physical humour and a real ability for slapstick.

But this is Martin’s movie and he never falters. Director John Whitesell makes the most of his high octane energy. A team wrote the script and I don’t imagine that will trouble Oscar’s nominations next year. It’s the movement, action and the music that make this so very enjoyable.

I went to see it on Bargain Monday at the beginning of the school February break. I really felt sorry for the staff at the Stratford Picturehouse who would have had the unenviable task of cleaning a fine layer of ground-in popcorn off every surface, seat and floor.

Hey, kids in groups on school holidays behave badly. I think we all knew that, didn’t we? I was the oldest person there by about 30 years.

But it was fun and deserves to do well. Perhaps one of the keys to enjoying a movie as much as I did watching this is to have low or no expectations at all. I suspect one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy “True Grit” as much as I thought I would is how much I loved the trailers and Westerns in general. If you suspend disbelief, discerning film watcher, you will thoroughly enjoy this unlikely treat. To think, this was not om my list of films to see! I suspect I am bucking a trend here, although I haven’t seen any reviews of it. I enjoyed it.

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