More than five years after “Big Momma’s House” — which was basically “Kindergarten Cop” in drag — Martin Lawrence goes the Uncle Miltie route again in this wholly uninspired sequel, which plays more like “Mrs. Doubtfire 2.” Donning the fat suit and wig, Lawrence’s FBI agent becomes the nanny to a trio of kids, while engaging in the most rudimentary of revenge plots. Probably review-proof for openers, pic is so episodic and flat it should be a letdown even to those amused by the original.
Consider it a trivia footnote that the first “House” party featured Terrence Howard as the bad guy and Paul Giamatti as Lawrence’s partner. Yet if that stakeout caper actually had some semblance of a dramatic foundation, the setup here is ludicrous from the get-go, as if the box office tally from its forerunner was reason enough to make the sequel.
Lawrence’s Agent Malcolm Turner has wedded the woman he met in the first film, Sherrie (Nia Long), and transferred to a desk job as they await the birth of their child. When one of his mentors is killed, however, Malcolm fabricates an excuse to go undercover as Big Momma, becoming the nanny to a businessman, Tom Fuller (“Desperate Housewives’ ” Mark Moses), suspected in the case.
Fuller is pretty much an absentee dad, and his wife Leah (“CSI: Miami’s” Emily Procter) demands order to the point of absurdity — one of those overeager moms determined to fast-track her kids to the Ivy League without exhibiting any warmth toward them. So it’s up to Big Momma to set everyone straight, while simultaneously ferreting out a national security threat, fending off disapproving FBI superiors and evading detection by his wife, who begins to doubt that Malcolm’s on a business trip.
If that sounds busy, it’s amazing how tedious the movie feels, perhaps because veteran sitcom director John Whitesell presents it less as a feature than a loosely connected series of scenes divided by musicvideos. As a result, even most of the set pieces — including Lawrence, in Big Momma disguise, accompanying Leah to a ritzy spa filled with half-naked Victoria’s Secret models — play better in 30-second TV ads than in the theater.
Given that his energy has to carry the action, Lawrence actually seems kind of bored except when Big Momma gets to cut loose on the dance floor to teach one of the moppets to be a cheerleader. As for the rest of the cast, it’s hard to avoid thinking that a lot of talented TV regulars picked up checks during their hiatus periods, and little else.
As constructed by Whitesell and writer Don Rhymer (who shared credit on the earlier movie), the tone also oscillates between overly broad and cloying, as George S. Clinton’s musical cues work overtime signaling the shifts.
The movie even lacks any of the big bathroom gags that provided guilty laughs the first time around. The only funny bits, rather, involve the Fullers’ 3-year-old son constantly leaping off things (to splat on the ground below) and the depressed family Chihuahua watching telenovelas.
No one confuses comedy sequels with “Masterpiece Theater,” but “Big Momma’s” exhibits such a minimal effort made to justify a reprise that the assumption appears to be that cloaking Lawrence in Greg Cannom’s suit will alone be ample incentive for audiences to flock back.
The producers maintain in the press notes that ensuring the sequel measured up to its predecessor prompted the five-year delay. According to that standard, “Big Momma 3” could be made at any time — but there’s no need to rush.