Nothing signifies a movie franchise madly scrambling for extra mileage than promoting the lead character's son to the co-lead. The latest to succumb to a bout of the Crystal Skulls is Martin Lawrence's Big Momma's House. If you thought they were flogging a dead horse with 2006's laugh-free sequel then wait until you get a load of the shameful Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. The series can never be viewed as anything close to ground-breaking, yet there are a few titters to be found in the first, with its watered-down Shane Black spin on Mrs Doubtfire. At movie number three, though, the whole enterprise has pretty much gone completely down the toilet.
Lawrence, reprising his role as FBI agent Malcolm Turner, is joined by Percy Jackson star Brandon T. Jackson as his teen stepson Trent. The pair are regularly at odds, as Trent has his sights set on a rap career, while Malcolm wants him to go to university. They witness the killing of an informant and discover that he had placed evidence on a flash drive at a girls' performing arts school, prompting both to don drag and head undercover - Malcolm as Big Momma and Trent as Charmaine - to locate the proof ahead of a gang of shady European gangsters (led by Tony Curran).
The introduction of a younger star has opened the door for director John Whitesell to skew towards a younger audience. Unfortunately, Jackson's character is comedic dead weight, spouting the kind of cringeworthy fast-talking 'street' lines that have so obviously been penned by a middle-class white man. There's also something of a creepiness about Jackson and Lawrence skulking around a girls' dormitory inhabited by actresses posing as giggling teen girls. Moving the action to an arts school paves the way for a series of horrendously contrived dance and musical numbers to lure in Glee fans. It's filmmaking by mathematical formula - no life, no imagination, just flicking through a magazine to see what's popular this month and crowbarring it in to squeeze out a few extra box office bucks.
"To know Big Momma is to love her," claims John Whitesell in the production notes for Like Father, Like Son. It's a bold statement, but one that's impossible to feel carries any weight. With more than $300 million in worldwide cinema earnings, maybe he has a point? This tired sequel serves up a load of half-baked slapstick, tedious dialogue and all-too predictable plot turns. Only Faizon Love, as school janitor Kurtis Kool, manages to register anything approaching laugh-worthy after he engages in a game of Twister with Big Momma. However, that single laugh is spread mightily thin over 107 minutes. It's about time Martin Lawrence retires the fat suit.
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