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Film / Bringing Down the House

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Bringing Down the House is a 2003 American comedy film, written by Jason Filardi and directed by Adam Shankman. The film stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.

Peter Sanderson (played by Martin) is a workaholic tax attorney corresponding with an online friend known only as "lawyer-girl." On their first blind date, Peter learns that "lawyer-girl" is Charlene Morton (played by Latifah), a wrongfully convicted bank robber claiming her innocence who wants Peter's help in getting the charges dropped. Peter also must deal with Virginia Arness (Joan Plowright), an eccentric billionaire, to bring her business to his firm, as well as competitive colleagues and bosses. His neighbor, Mrs. Kline (Betty White), who happens to be a sister of one of the senior partners, is a nosy bigot. Peter attempts to juggle these issues as well as reconcile with his estranged wife (Jean Smart) and children (Kimberly J. Brown and Angus T. Jones).

Not to be confused with the book of the same name, which was adapted into the movie 21.

This film provides examples of:

  • Cain and Abel: Ashley's the Cain to Kate's Abel, with no explanation how Ashley turned out to be such a humongous, racist Gold Digger while Kate... didn't.
  • Cat Fight: Missi Pyle vs Queen Latifah, when Charlene finally has enough of Ashley's horrible attitude and calls her out in the country club bathroom.
  • Cathartic Scream: Peter listens to a (presumably long) confession from his teenage daughter about all the things in her life. After hearing this, he very calmly walks upstairs, takes a pillow, holds it to his face, and screams.
    • Then proceeds to take a couple pills, then scream into the pillow again.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Charlene's tendency to keep things in her bra.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: While Charlene wins the fight against Ashley as expected, Ashley puts up a decent fight thanks to her Tae Bo classes.
  • Double Entendre: The club that Peter, Charlene, and Howie catch Widow and his gang at is called "The Down Low." The term "Down Low" is slang in the African-American community for black men who are closeted homosexuals and have to be discreet in their sexual or romantic pursuits of men.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Knowing they would probably check him for a wire, Peter brings a boom box into the back room of the club. When Widow tells him to shut it off, he hits record instead of stop.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Ashley, Peter's conniving, manipulative, gold digging, racist, alcoholic, self-absorbed ex sister-in-law. She brings absolutely nothing to the movie aside from being a gigantic bitch most of the characters can't stand, and to showcase Charlene's toughness when she kicks her ass in the country club bathroom.
    • Mrs. Kline, the racist old biddy who lives on Peter's block whose every scene features her casually saying something offensive or disparaging about minorities and queers.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Mrs. Arness accidentally smokes a joint near the end of the movie, unwittingly getting stoned. She agrees to let Peter handle her business accounts personally if he doesn't tell anyone.
  • Jerkass: Literally the only person in the movie whom Ashley isn't nasty to is Kate.
  • Mama Bear: When Charlene finds out Sarah's boyfriend got rough with her, she held him over a balcony by his ankles and forced him to apologize.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Queen Latifah pretending to be the servant. Beyond that, she's demonstrated that she's just as capable at acting "white bread" and "W.A.S.P."-y as Peter and his associates, but that's not who she is.
    • Peter putting on his best Pretty Fly for a White Guy act when he sneaks into The Down Low.
  • Pocket Protector: Charlene survives a bullet when it hits the cell phone she's been keeping in her bra.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Peter attempts to blend in when he sneaks into The Down Low to meet with Widow. Being a greying old man dressed like a teenaged hoodlum, it works about as well as you'd expect.
  • Racist Grandma: Mrs. Kline, the next door neighbor played by Betty White, makes disparaging remarks about the idea of Latinos owning a home on their block, claims to have heard "Negro" being spoken when Charlene first appears, and comments on Peter's son having hair that makes him "look like a fag."
  • Scary Black Man: Widow (Charlene’s ex), he framed her for the robbery that got her put in prison.
  • Totally Radical: An attempted aversion, since the writers made up a lot of their own slang rather than risk dating the movie with pre-existing slang.
  • Unseen Pen Pal: The film begins with Peter (Steve Martin), a financial/income tax lawyer sharing emails with a woman named Charlene, who demonstrates a good deal of knowledge of law. When they meet in person, he discovers that Charlene (Queen Latifah) was not the District Attorney in the foreground of the picture he sent her, but the convict that was being escorted out of a squad car in the background.
  • Villainous Valor: Ashley might be a piece of shit but she doesn't back down from fighting Charlene and lands a couple of good blows before Charlene starts dominating their scuffle.
  • Wedgie: At the end of Charlene and Ashley's Cat Fight, Charlene wins after she knocks Ashley out and hangs her on a hook in the bathroom by her bathing suit.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Peter starts the film with neglecting his family to keep his career afloat.
  • Where da White Women At?: Peter's friend Howie (Eugene Levy) immediately falls for "that cocoa goddess" the second he sees Charlene. Several characters also accuse Peter of having "Jungle Fever" when they see him with her.
    • Howie and Charlene do indeed get together at the end. Howie tells Peter to tell Charlene for him that "the cool points are out the window and she's got him all twisted up in his game." Peter gives Charlene the message, and says that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to her.