Big Momma's House 2

D

Big Momma's House 2

Director: John Whitesell
Runtime: 90 minutes
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Emily Procter

The FBI has taken a lot of hits over the past five years and endures another blow in Big Momma's House 2, a muckraking exposé of bureau incompetence cunningly disguised as an idiotic slapstick comedy. In the least necessary sequel this side of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, it takes the nation's preeminent domestic law-enforcement agency half the film to realize that the portly country nanny (Martin Lawrence) employed in a house they have under surveillance is actually one of their agents in a hideous fat suit, an unfortunately plausible plot point.

That's far from the only unfortunate element here. At this point, it's hard to say which is sadder: Lawrence indulging his bug-eyed love of broad slapstick and ribald sex gags, or the soft 'n' sentimental Lawrence earnestly providing motherly advice to a gaggle of doe-eyed moppets while drippy music swells in the background. Audiences get plenty of each in Big Momma's House 2, once Lawrence climbs back into the fat suit to help solve the murder of his first partner. This time, he's saddled with an uptight rich white family, which means the task is evenly split between gathering clues and teaching his new charges how to loosen up, follow their dreams, believe in themselves, and get funky. And, in a transparent bid for attention at the upcoming NAACP Image Awards, there's a subplot in which Lawrence's sassy font of drawling country wisdom teaches rhythm-impaired white folks how to dance. How progressive!

It's hard to mourn the apparent passing of Lawrence's fabled early raunchiness—only so much hilarity can be gleaned from critiquing inadequate feminine hygiene—but there's something depressing about seeing the low-energy, family-friendly Lawrence sleepwalk through the film's sappy plot points. It's like watching a once-irrepressible roaring drunk sourly nursing an O'Doul's.