Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son: Film Review

20th Century Fox
The third time is not the charm for Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma drag act but less tedious than No. 2.

The threequel, which stars Martin Lawrence and "Tropic Thunder's" Brandon T. Jackson, won't likely disappoint fans of men-in-drag comedy but doesn't offer much that’s original or funny.

You get two Big Mommas for the price of one in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, where Martin Lawrence’s FBI agent, forever undercover as a girth-challenged woman, passes the torch -- no, make that a fat suit and wig -- to a stepson who joins him in drag. This is not a case of doubling the fun so much as an anxious attempt to revive a franchise running out of gas.

While not likely to increase the Big Momma audience, the movie isn’t likely to disappoint either if one is prone to love men-in-drag comedy, which reaches back even before Milton Berle. The moral here is if you slap a dress on a guy, they will come. So Fox should see decent, critic-proof business for a couple of weeks.

Not that Uncle Miltie didn’t have better gags. For that matter, so did Mrs. Doubtfire and Dame Edna Everage, not to mention Josephine and Daphne in Some Like It Hot. But credit the Martin Lawrence movie series at least with this: He’s a lot funnier than Tyler Perry’s Medea. Now that woman is just scary.

It no doubt would be much funnier to witness the story sessions where director John Whitesell, who helmed the first sequel, and screenwriter Matthew Fogel were confronted with the challenge of figuring out how to get the FBI’s oddest agent into women’s clothes for a third time. When Fogel got his B.A. in English from Yale and MFA from Columbia University, do you suppose he had this in mind?

In the end, the story can endure no scrutiny because little makes sense beginning with an opening sequence where the FBI agent commits major felonies simply to get a letter from a postman about to deliver it anyway. The men, these being Lawrence’s Malcolm Turner and comedian-actor Brandon T. Jackson as his stepson Trent, come to an Atlanta-area girls school as a house mother and her beefy young niece to hide out from three criminals even as they search for the computer flash drive that will put these three stooges behind bars forever.

This sets up a series of gag situations where the school’s hulking security guard develops a crush on Turner’s Big Momma while Charmaine, Trent’s nom de femme, develops a warm, womanly friendship with a beauteous singer-songwriter, Haley (Jessica Lucas).

Other gags stem from classes in ballet, art and the like where Big Momma and Charmaine labor to maintain their poses.

The positive side to this third Big Momma film concerns less what it does do then what it doesn’t do. The film doesn’t go overboard with bad-taste jokes like the previous two. The absence of toilet humor feels like an actual blessing. Nor does the movie turn Jackson, who had a solid turn as a rapper in Tropic Thunder, into a Big Momma clone. He’s his own woman, so to speak. In other words, the movie could’ve been worse.

But Like Father, Like Son doesn’t do anything very original or very funny either. The flatness of some gags is downright astonishing. The lack of real menace from the criminals or real energy in the search for a missing flash drive or real relationships among the girls in the school is breathtaking. Is this all Big Momma’s brain trust could come up with in the four years since the last film?

Technical credits are middling. There’s nothing to be ashamed of here, but neither is this title going high on anyone’s filmography.


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