English comic player known for her bossy roles in British TV series including "Please Sir!", "Me and My Girl" and "After Henry". Sanderson worked mostly on TV and on the British stage, with occasional...
It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
Bringing Down the House follows Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) a divorced conservative workaholic tax attorney who is still hung up on his ex-wife (Jean Smart) but has little time for a social life--or his two kids (Kimberly J. Brown Angus T. Jones). His only outlet is a cyber relationship with an online chat buddy he thinks is a buxom blonde lawyer with whom he finally makes a date to meet in person. Lo and behold the buxom blonde turns out to be the ghetto fabulous Charlene (Queen Latifah) a convict who claims she's been framed for a crime and wants Peter to help clear her name. None too happy about this turn of events Peter just wants her out of his house like yesterday but this woman will not be ignored. She quickly invades his home his life and jeopardizes his career especially his efforts to woo a billion-dollar client (Joan Plowright). Is Charlene really all that bad? Of course not--she's just a misguided angel in disguise and soon she is showing Peter the error of his ways helping his family come together.
Martin once again displays his knack for physical comedy and does indeed "bring down the house" a number of times. But darn it--and I truly hate to say this--the man is just getting a too old to be bouncing around like he used to. He makes fun of his age in the film but goes ahead and dry humps Charlene on the couch in a drunken stupor or dresses up in gangsta-rap gear anyway. It's embarrassing. Martin is much better suited as the suave intelligent bitingly acerbic fellow we know and love. Perhaps he should think about doing more in the vein of his devastatingly wicked performance in David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner. Latifah on the other hand fits in like a glove rising above the material and stealing almost every scene she is in. After snagging an Oscar nod for her juicy turn in Chicago it seems to be the Queen's year--so look out folks here she comes! The film is also briefly elevated by the hysterical supporting turns of Eugene Levy Peter's jive-talkin' associate Howie who's got a jones for Charlene; Betty White as Peter's neighbor a twisted racist version of Mrs. Kravitz from the TV show Bewitched; and Plowright as the snooty Mrs. Arness who gets high with a little help from some pot-smokin' friends in a club one of the better "stoned" scenes in recent memory.
Latifah told Entertainment Weekly that House's first draft was so heavily populated with racist characters it was "a wreck and offensive...The question was Can we make it what it needs to be?" A very good question indeed and it's pretty clear they weren't able to fix the inherent problems. It's a broad comedy pure and simple but in making us laugh apparently it is also necessary to insult our intelligence. Director Adam Shankman (A Walk to Remember; The Wedding Planner) handles the material like a bull in a china shop going straight for hackneyed jokes where nothing comes as a surprise and everything can be seen a mile away (especially if you saw the trailer). The Mary Poppins-ish theme with the brash Charlene could have been an entertaining twist on the "traveling angel" genre (a term used by screenwriting guru John Truby) where a character comes in changes everything around for the better and then leaves. Instead House unfortunately falls into staid patterns with only brief moments of hilarity.
English comic player known for her bossy roles in British TV series including "Please Sir!", "Me and My Girl" and "After Henry". Sanderson worked mostly on TV and on the British stage, with occasional small film roles in "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981) and Stephen Frears' "Prick Up Your Ears" (1987).