Big Momma but not Big Laughs
I sometimes feel for Martin Lawrence because it seems at times that those who have handled his career have tried to turn him into Eddie Murphy rather than letting him be his own man. He's done cop movies like Murphy, he's done family friendly comedy like Murphy, he's even starred in a movie with Murphy and in 2000 they had him in a fat suit and behind latex like Murphy. Yes I am talking about "Big Momma's House" which saw Lawrence give us something which ends up a mix of "The Nutty Professor" with "Mrs. Doubtfire" and honestly not a good mix as a weak storyline struggles to be a vehicle for a lot of set piece gags.
When bank robber Lester Vesco (Terrence Howard) escapes from prison FBI agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence - Life) and his partner John (Paul Giamatti) are asked to stake out the home of Hattie Mae Pierce aka Big Momma (Ella Mitchell) as they expect Lester's former girlfriend Sherry (Nia Long - Boiler Room) to show up there as she makes a hasty exit from her home with her young son. The only trouble is that Big Momma gets called away for a few days so Malcolm, a master of disguise, has to don a fat suit and latex mask to masquerade as the larger than life woman so that he can not only find out if Sherry was involved in the original crime that Lester committed but keep an eye out for him showing up. The only trouble is that Malcolm starts to have feelings for Sherry which he can't act upon because it will blow the mission.
Now in fairness "Big Momma's House" was always going to be about one thing, the humour of having a man pretending to be a large woman but it is a shame that they didn't put more effort into creating a storyline which was a stronger vehicle for the humour. Okay so we have the story of Malcolm and John trying to recapture escaped bank robber Lester Vesco by pretending to be Big Momma and gaining the confidence of Sherry, Lester's former girlfriend. But not only is it obvious, with a less than surprising romantic subplot as Malcolm falls for the seriously hot Sherry but it is not strong enough as a vehicle for the laughs.
Actually that is a bit of a lie because the humour which comes from the story of Malcolm trying to keep up the masquerade of being Big Momma is fun even if it is obvious. Gags such as getting caught in the bathroom planting bugs or dealing with a latex mask slipping may not be clever but it is amusing. But unfortunately what you get is a lot of set piece humour which doesn't really relate to the story. A child birth scene and basketball match are just two of several gags which the writers obviously thought would be funny because we have Malcolm pretending to be an old woman but end up feeling totally out of place.
And that is one of the big issues with "Big Momma's House" it takes a fun, not really original idea but then doesn't do it justice by creating humour to support the story. The other big issue is that whilst Martin Lawrence does a good job of delivering the humour it does feel like he's been saddled with copying others most notably doing an Eddie Murphy in a big fat suit whilst doing a Robin Williams playing a woman behind the latex mask. You can't stop comparing what Lawrence does to what Murphy and Williams did and unfortunately Lawrence doesn't do anything which makes his turn inside the body suit new or different. It sadly means that whilst Martin Lawrence is the star of the movie you end up remembering it just as much for Nia Long being super hot as Sherry and for Paul Giamatti as Malcolm's FBI partner.
What this all boils down to is that "Big Momma's House" is fun but it is also nothing special with Martin Lawrence basically giving us a mix of Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams as he dons the fat suit and latex. If the set piece gags had been better and more to do with the story it would have been so much better but instead we get a movie which relies on a few set piece gags for the big laughs and little else.