In his follow-up to the surprisingly successful 2000 film "Big Momma's House," the increasingly unfunny Martin Lawrence proves once and for all that he is trying, in vain, to become the next Eddie Murphy.
For the second film in a row, Lawrence combines gentle, inoffensive humor with a touch of sweetness, a dash of family values, and the mandatory cute kids to create a film that is far too friendly to bash completely but lacks anything resembling the first film's humor, spark or entertainment value.
Of course, the first film also had the likes of Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard to keep the festivities amusing. The only notable performer returning for this film is Nia Long as Lawrence's wife, and her note is so completely one-note as a nagging, pregnant wife that she's completely sapped of any laughs.
"Big Momma's House 2" is essentially a series of skits designed to show Big Momma in a variety of "funny" scenarios, most of which are more likely to lead to groans than laughs. In the film, Lawrence's FBI agent has taken a desk job to please his pregnant wife but when his first partner is killed "in the line" (love that FBI lingo), he tells his wife he's going to a conference but instead infiltrates a suspect's family as their new nanny.
The mere site of Lawrence in the Big Momma character induces a touch of laughter, but it also grows weary fast AND is so over-the-top that there's times it's downright gross. There were several times I thought of Spike Lee's term, "Fugly." Big Momma is downright fugly, and her make-up in this film is so completely obvious that surrendering to the premise that any family would buy into her authenticity is a major stretch. In fact, that was the problem in virtually every scenario presented with Big Momma...nearly everyone involved in the scenario would have to be a complete idiot to buy into it.
Of course, "Big Momma's House 2" is not meant to be realistic or authentic. It's an excuse to display Lawrence's comic abilities and to make a few bucks for everyone involved. On a very modest level, it succeeds in being a showcase for Lawrence, though he needs to give up on the idea of following Murphy's footsteps and making successful family films. It was a hard enough sell for "Party all the Time" Murphy. It's an almost impossible sell for Lawrence, whose smirk alone projects anything but the sincerity required to pull off these sorts of roles.
There are a couple amusing, almost funny, scenes in "Big Momma's House 2" including a rip-off of Bo Derek's braided romp across a beach in "10" and in Lawrence's interactions with the kids, especially the young cheerleading daughter.
Unfortunately, the film is filled with scenes that either don't work, are too uncomfy to work, or are simply tasteless. Big Momma teaching young teen girls to do ghetto dance moves is a tad amusing until THAT thought strikes...underneath all this make-up is a father with one child and another on the way. He's teaching young girls to dance like professional cheerleaders? Suddenly, it goes from funny to downright eerie.
"Big Momma's House 2" is an ever so slight return to form for Lawrence after the disasters called "National Security" and "Rebound." It's still far beneath the originality of the original "Big Momma's House" and a sad affair for a comic who used to be known for his edgy, straightforward and aggressive humor.
Director John Whitesell ("Malibu's Most Wanted") seems completely unable to harness Lawrence's energy and appears to be content to just focus the film on his humor. The script does have a touch of sweetness, but it seems forced and unbelievable much of the time.
The entire supporting cast is pretty much wasted, but they're also existing in one-note roles. Oddly enough, the best supporting performance is turned in by 9-year-old Chloe Moretz, who has a charm and emotional range that Lawrence can only dream of as an actor.
The end result is a boring, bland and lifeless sequel to a film that, while predictable, had a nice energy and spark to it. The end of "Big Momma's House 2" leaves wide open the idea of a third film in the series. I, for one, am hoping that Lawrence ignores any urge to revisit this sophomoric family fluff and returns to the Martin Lawrence who challenged, provoked and was actually funny.