Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
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After a five-year absence, actor Martin Lawrence is back as FBI agent Malcolm Turner. And, of course, as "Big Momma," his supersized, undercover-granny alias.
This time around, his wannabe rapper stepson, Trent, complicates life by getting tangled up in a sting operation. After the 17-year-old witnesses a murder committed by a kingpin named Chirkoff, Malcolm and Trent end up with a pack of thugs hot on their trail.
How to lose them? Why, go undercover. As women. At a women's college.
Cloaked beneath padding, wigs, makeup and yards of latex, the drag-clad duo flees to the Georgia Girls' School for the Arts in Atlanta, where Malcolm suspects a flash drive containing evidence against Chirkoff might be hidden. Big Momma soon takes a job as house mother for nubile coeds, and Trent becomes a plus-sized teen named Charmaine … who salivates over just about every one of the aforementioned female students. Especially a pianist named Haley.
Big Momma is looking to put Chirkoff and his cruel crew away for good. So to gain full access to search the campus for the missing flash drive, Momma befriends maintenance man Curtis Cool, who in turn acts as if "her" rotundity is a divine gift from above.
Only two questions remain: Whether Malcolm will find the evidence he's looking for … and whether Malcolm and Trent will ever be able to look each other in the eyes as men again.
Trent protects Haley when Chirkoff and his men give chase. He also matures after realizing that his swaggering, know-it-all rapper persona might be offensive and hurtful. Gradually he discovers the value of an education and chooses to attend college rather than rush to make it big as a rapper.
When he and Haley go on a date, both admit that they're still trying to figure out who they are as individuals, and that that's OK. Big Momma advises a woman to respect herself and tries to help some of the young women in the house deal with eating disorders and body image problems. Trent comes to respect his estranged stepfather, even calling him "Dad." Charmaine helps Haley deal with stage fright during a recital.
A number of characters toss around God's and Jesus' names in ways that could be considered half prayer, half profanity ("Lordy," "Lord, Lord, Lord."). In similar territory is Curtis' crass prayer as he ogles Big Momma: "God, I forgive you for the '90s. Thank you, Jesus, for now." When a mailman gets assaulted, he cries out to God and prays that someone might be hiding in the bushes filming the attack. Leering at girls on campus, Trent exclaims that he's gone "straight to the promised land."
A spiritual is sung. The Hindu greeting namaste—meaning "I bow to the god in you"—is used twice. A housemother labels the teens she takes care of "demon spawn," and we also hear jokes about exorcising demons. At a candlelit ceremony, Trent asks if some girls are sacrificing an animal. (They're not.)
Haley shares a dressing room with Charmaine, and the former is shown in panties and beginning to unclasp her bra. Charmaine (Trent) excuses "herself," saying suggestively, "Something came up."
Big Momma and Curtis play Twister, "unwittingly" demonstrating sexual positions as they contort together. During a figure drawing class, Big Momma is asked to pose nude. When she drops her sheet, we see "her" large, bare backside. Young women wear short skirts and shorts, camisoles and pajamas—skimpy attire repeatedly attracts Trent's lustful looks and comments. He tells the dean that girls are "delicious" and the school is like a "festival of flavors." At least one girl is seen wearing only a towel. A young woman's panties are visible under her skirt as she dances.
A song lyric speaks of getting into someone's pants. Slang is used to describe male genitalia. Sexual acts and premature ejaculation are mentioned. When Curtis discovers that Big Momma is actually a man, he cries, "Not again!" When it's time to relinquish their drag outfits, Trent asks if he can keep his prosthetic breasts, saying he deserves them. Trent and Haley kiss.
Several people are held at gunpoint, and one man is murdered onscreen. Shots are fired repeatedly. Malcolm abuses his FBI authority by chasing a letter carrier's truck at high speed and tackling the man ... to get his mail early. A taser knocks someone to the floor. Big Momma knocks out two men with a heavy book.
Big Momma also dances on a table that collapses, resulting a violent (prat)fall. Charmaine falls on top of a ballerina, and we hear a crunching sound. Malcolm talks about shooting his mailman in the backside. Malcolm grabs Trent's groin, and the teen cries out in pain.
Crude or Profane Language
Two s-words. God's name is misused a half-dozen times. Other language includes about 10 uses each of "a‑‑" and "h‑‑‑," and at least 15 uses of "d‑‑n." The word "tool" is used to mockingly describe a man as male genitalia.
Drug and Alcohol Content
A man in a bar drinks. Big Momma and Curtis have a drink on a "date."
Other Negative Elements
Big Mommas repeatedly mocks overweight people … and just about everyone else for that matter. Writing for New York City's Village Voice, reviewer Nick Schager summed up the film's attitude by saying, "[Director] John Whitesell's extraordinarily witless movie operates as a checklist for cultural and racial clichés."
Trent lies to Malcolm and others several times (but later apologizes for an untruth that endangered himself and Malcolm). The mailman threatens to lose Malcolm's tax refund. Haley steals a music box from the school. When he thinks he might die, Trent asks Malcolm not to let Walmart make a clean version of his rap album, saying he wants to preserve his "musical integrity." Malcolm tells Trent that a real man wouldn't risk his life for some girl.
Trent urinates loudly after we watch him struggle to get a girdle off. Big Momma says she's not wearing clean granny panties.
In 2006, Plugged In senior editor Bob Smithouser began his review of Big Momma's House 2 thusly: "Big Momma's House 2 isn't awful, but it is lazy and clichéd."
Allow me to repurpose and edit that assessment for 2011: "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son is awful, lazy and clichéd."
In fact, this film is so awful, lazy and clichéd—at press time, the movie's approval rating among critics at rottentomatoes.com hovered just above zero, at an abysmal 4%—that one wonders why its makers felt the need to produce it at all. The answer, of course, is to milk this semiprofitable franchise starring an African-American comedian in drag (haven't we seen this before?) at least one more time.
In a recent interview with popeater.com, Martin Lawrence admitted he'll keep making Big Momma films until audiences stop showing up. "We're going to ride this until the wheels fall off," he said. "If the fans enjoy it and like it and they're entertained and they're getting what they want, then there's no telling where we can go with it. And if this is the last one, well, I had a fun ride."
Never mind that such sentiments don't jibe with what I saw as the film ended: Martin Lawrence suddenly realizing that his dressing up as an obese elderly woman is not only not funny, it's actually offensive. Then promising never to make another Big Momma movie ever again.
Oh wait. That's just how I wish things had ended.
I can only hope that Lawrence's prophecy about the wheels coming off this tired franchise happens sooner rather than later, and that this might indeed be Big Momma's last ride.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Martin Lawrence as Malcom/Big Momma; Brandon T. Jackson as Trent/Charmaine; Jessica Lucas as Haley; Tony Curran as Chirkoff
20th Century Fox
February 18, 2011
June 14, 2011