(Not exactly) bringing down the house.
Start with a trite, shallow plot. Add Steve Martin as every other role you've ever seen him play. Mix in a little Eugene Levy working those bushy eyebrows to reprise the wannabe hipster we saw in American Pie 1 and 2. Stir vigorously with a Queen Latifah playing a role which, after her work in Chicago, can only be described as "meh". That's pretty much Bringing Down the House in a nutshell.
I wanted to like this movie. Steve Martin can be one of the funniest actors on the screen. And after her role in the Broadway-cum-Blockbuster musical extravaganza Chicago, I had high hopes for Queen Latifah. Eugene Levy… well, I didn't know he was in the movie.
Unfortunately, the movie is shackled by its plot from the very beginning. Peter Sanderson (Martin), our protagonist, is a high-powered tax attorney defending his place in the pecking order from a snide up-and-comer. You can pretty much pull out every stereotype of a high-powered tax attorney and wave it about, as the movie certainly does. Peter is divorced; he breaks promises to his kids; he drives a very expensive car, and lives in a very expensive and very exclusive (and very stereotypically white upper middle class, or WUMC) community. The screenwriter(s) and director seem to have gotten quite a bit of mileage out of their cookie-cutters for this film; there are, in fact, no three-dimensional characters in the film at all.
Obviously this is, to an extent, forgivable in a light comedy. But when you can describe every character in the movie in a single sentence, well, that's not good.
Even a tremendously shallow movie could, in some respect, have been rescued by good comedy. Indeed, some of the bits are fairly funny. Steve Martin playing an uptight WUMC guy practicing seduction with QL's cookie-cutter "smart sistah from the hood" has several comic moments. The major scene between QL and Peter's ex-wife's blonde gold-digger sister (see, I told you -- one sentence per character) is amusing for its unpredictability. And Peter's scene in the club is the best of the movie.
Unfortunately, none of these things are new. And when the final credits roll, and you get up out of the movie seat, you find yourself feeling that you've just paid good money to see Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, and Queen Latifah do the same old same old one more time.