Peter Sanderson is a divorced, straight-laced, uptight attorney who still loves his ex-wife and can't figure out what he did wrong to make her leave him. However, Peter's trying to move on, and he's smitten with a brainy, bombshell barrister he's been chatting with online. However, when she comes to his house for their first face-to-face, she isn't refined, isn't Ivy League, and isn't even a lawyer. Instead, it's Charlene, a prison escapee who's proclaiming her innocence and wants Peter to help her clear her name. But Peter wants nothing to do with her, prompting the loud and shocking Charlene to turn Peter's perfectly ordered life upside down, jeopardizing his effort to get back with his wife and woo a billion dollar client. In the end, our unlikely pair has the chance to put each other's lives on higher ground--if they don't end up bringing down the house.
Almost everyone in the wan comedy "Bringing Down the House" has done better work before, even those making their debut. High-school cafeteria soup has more flavor than this bland, tepid throwback. The picture does get a couple of laughs out of its premise: Steve Martin, once again playing a proto-WASP — this time, Peter, a repressed tax lawyer — is taken in by the bright, intelligent e-mails he gets from someone whose online sobriquet is "lawyergirl." But on their first blind date, Peter learns that lawyergirl is Charlene (Queen Latifah), a convicted bank robber claiming her innocence who wants Peter's help in getting the charges dropped. "Bringing Down the House" lives up to its name, and not in a good way. — Elvis Mitchell
2003-03-07 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Bringing Down the House