Taking a cushy FBI desk job to spend more time with his pregnant wife (Nia Long), Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) finds himself hungry for field action again when a fellow agent is murdered. Looking to crack the case, Malcolm revives his finest disguise, Big Momma, and takes a job as a nanny to three high maintenance kids to inch closer to the bad guys. Coming to understand that the family he’s caring for has much larger problems than he expected, the Big Momma persona swiftly takes over Malcolm, who uses all his time to protect and assist his new family.
Clearly, at this point, Martin Lawrence wants the same career as Eddie Murphy, who makes millions trying to tickle family audiences around the globe with reprehensible cinema. To witness Murphy, one of the sharpest comedy minds around, slink down this path is frustrating, but in Lawrence’s case, it’s just sad. “Big Momma’s House” was huge hit for the comedian, and represented the peak of his cinematic powers, as he tapped into both nostalgia for the saintly, yet fierce, grandmother role and a thirst from urban audiences for films the whole family can see. The first “House” production also featured Paul Giamatti, Terrence Howard, and Cedric the Entertainer in supporting roles. It may not be such a shock to many of you that these actors declined to return for the sequel.
It isn’t that “House 2” is a complete disaster from start to finish, but more that it’s a completely uninspired comedy, relying on the established charms of Lawrence to piece together a candy shell of the film. This is an episodic movie, simply taking Big Momma to various locations and waiting for the laughs to follow. See Big Momma half-naked at the spa! Watch her with a swimsuit wedgie at the beach! Guffaw as she teaches 8 year-old little girls nightclub dance moves! Directed by John Whitesell (“Malibu’s Most Wanted”), the picture lurches around trying to dream up new environments for Big Momma to stomp through. Admittedly, there are a handful of laughs when Lawrence finds alone time with the kids. The comic has always been great with small reactions, not abysmal pratfall set pieces or the tired heartwarming direction that he tries desperately to steer this movie towards. Leave him alone with other people, and more often than not, Lawrence usually finds a way to score laughs.
Unfortunately, “House 2” has a plot, and Whitesell just won’t ignore it, no matter how insignificant it becomes. Presenting the audience with far more action and procedural scripting than any film this light should suffer, the whole enterprise drops dead in the final act. Why Lawrence insists on wanting to be an action hero, I will never know. But it has yet to work for him, and it depletes “Big Momma’s House 2” of whatever microscopic sliver of fun it managed to accumulate up to that point.Rating: D+