Some film franchises don’t know when to quit and the Big Momma’s House series is unfortunately a prime example… as we review the latest, Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son – out today on Blu-ray.
Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) is ecstatic. His son Trent (Brandon T. Jackson) has been accepted at Duke’s University, something he has hoped for for a long time. But when Trent says he’d rather his father sign a contract to allow him to tour the States as his rapper alter-ego, Prodi-G, all hell breaks loose between father and son! When Trent witnesses a murder, Malcolm is forced to dust off Big Momma’s granny pants and slip back into that fat suit to go undercover once more… Only this time Trent will accompany him as Charmaine, in order to infiltrate an all-girls performing arts school and track down the murderer before they’re found…
I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a sucker for ridiculously terrible films: I’d happily let everyone know that the atrocity that was White Chicks  made me almost wet myself with laughter when I first saw it. I even enjoyed the first film in the Big Momma’s House saga (the second was not quite as good, however), but even with my slightly biased viewpoint I can see how bad Like Father, Like Son really is!
The main problem is the casting. Brandon T Jackson is 26 in reality and just does not convince as the 17-year-old son of Malcolm. From the opening of the film, the entire concept of it being a comedy surrounding the far from perfect relationship between father and son is ruined by this. Whilst Jackson does generate some laughs and his larger than life performance works well with the overall tone of the film, his performance fails on the fundamental level as he cannot convince as a 17-year-old. Lawrence is his usual infantile self and is genuinely funny as Big Momma at points, but it’s clear that even he is slightly tired of donning the curly wig and speaking in the high-pitched squawk. His performance lacks some of the vitality and vivacious comedy that was the heart of the original film and the only thing that prevented it from being a complete car crash. The supporting is cast is mainly unforgettable, which makes sense, as the film is solely concerned with Malcolm and Trent. There are some rather stunning supporting actresses, but their inclusion sums up the entire film: all image and no substance…
Another reason Like Father, Like Son fails is it’s inability to decide what it wants to be. On the one hand it wants to carry on the infantile comedy inherent within the first two movies, but it also wants to be a heart-warming film about the bond between a father and son. However, it manages to fail on both levels. Whilst viewers will undoubtedly chuckle at a few moments within the film, most of the gags seem to be slightly off the mark. For instance, the film opens with Malcolm chasing a mail delivery truck on it’s route, all to get his hands on his son’s college acceptance letter. Forced to dump-tackle the mailman to get the letter, the whole episode just screams, “WTF?” It’s a pointless exercise and really not very funny at all.
Similarly, neither Lawrence or Jackson have the talent to add enough weight to their performances and shift the film towards a family drama. Essentially, there’s an extreme amount of misdirection that causes the film to lose its way, instead becoming a huge mess. As light, frothy entertainment that requires very little brain engagement it works, but for anybody who likes to get involved in the film they are watching, avoid this one at all costs!
The film has a high visual quality that helps show off locations at their best. The opening credits feature a series of images of the local city and the full 1080p transfer helps them come alive. These first few moments almost appear as a travelogue and it is in fact here where the film is its most successful! The colour palette is rich and vibrant, with blue skies electrically bright and skin tones lush. However, the Bluray is not without its flaws, as certain shots are afflicted with high levels of grain. The overall visual quality is very high, which makes these lower quality shots that little bit more noticeable. Audio quality is not quite up to scratch on this release, sounding a little hollow and almost tinny at times. Most releases manage to offer a deep and textured audio track, but Like Father, Like Son fails to do so.
A small array of bonus material is included on the Bluray disc:
An audio commentary with director John Whitesell and actors Jackson, Jessica Lucas and Portia Doubleday.
Song and Dance: Big Momma Style – featurette
Bigger Busts Countdown – featurette
Baby You Know – Music video
Lyrical Miracle – Extended music video
The film is also presented in the original theatrical version and a new extended version, plus a free digital download is included on the DVD disc – it’s debateable though, however, whether you class these as special features!
Film: 1.5 out of 5
It was never going to be heralded as a classic of the comedy genre, but even performing within its lowbrow bracket it fails to impress. Miscasting and gags that miss the mark just add insult to injury on an already very sore funny bone.
Visuals: 4 out of 5
Very competent visuals include an incredibly vibrant and lush colour palette and crisp images. A few moments of grainy imagery puncture the generally impressive quality, but these are not sufficient enough to distract or become irritating.
Audio: 2 out of 5
A tinny and hollow audio track is thoroughly disappointing, particularly when films produced decades earlier have been released with excellent upgraded audio.
Extras: 3 out of 5
The special features included on the disc are the typical fare. The audio commentary and gag reel are relatively amusing, but the only truly entertaining extra is the Bigger Busts Countdown featurette that chronicles the ten funniest moments from all three films. Surprisingly, there actually are ten!
Presentation: 2 out of 5
Nothing stands out as particularly impressive: menus are bog standard and whilst the front cover is bright and relatively amusing, it could definitely have been more eye-catching.
Overall: 2 out of 5
A disappointing film is padded out with a few paltry additional features, but not enough to make this release worth purchasing if you’re anything other than a diehard fan of the series.
Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son is out now on Blu-ray.