By Herb Kane | June 10, 2000

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Bob Aulert (, Bob Graham (San Francisco Chronicle), Robin Rauzi (Los Angeles Times), Lawrence Toppman (The Charlotte Observer), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune), Susan Stark (Detroit News), Tom Meek (, and Karen Moline (Movieline). PLUS the two TV critic shows: “The New Movie Show with Chris Gore” and “Roger Ebert & the Movies.”
* * (PG-13)
Movie critics say “Big Momma’s House” isn’t so big. They say it has a little plot and little hope for Martin Lawrence to duplicate the success of Eddie Murphy’s film – “The Nutty Professor.” Did Big Momma dish out less than what we expected?
Bob Aulert ( said, “The story (what there is of it) is a thin stew of shameless stolen ingredients, one part ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ one part ‘Nutty Professor,’ one part ‘Tootsie,’ five parts idiocy.”
Big Momma (Ella Mitchell), a 400 pound Southern woman, leaves town on emergency forcing FBI agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) to dress up in a fat suit to take her place. He stakes out her house to catch escape convict Lester (Terrance Howard) who is the ex-boyfriend of granddaughter Sherry (Nia Long). Malcolm later develops a big heart for Sherry and finds himself in enormously funny situations.
Bob Graham (San Francisco Chronicle) said, “If ‘Big Momma’s House’ goes over, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a ‘Big Momma’ meets the ‘Nutty Professor’ double sequel down the line.” Many critics I’ve read would disagree and probably call the sequel “Big Momma’s House” meets “The Wrecking Ball.”
Despite the thin story line and the fact other actors were merely props in the film, “Big Momma’s House” was a funny movie in a “lets play pretend” kind of way. But some critics simply don’t have a sense of humor.
There is one scene where the real Big Momma rushes for the toilet with diarrhea from ill effects of eating stewed prunes. Malcolm, trapped in her bathroom and hiding behind a shower curtain, hears and smells everything. You cannot help but cringe and laugh at the same time. Big Momma even disrobes.
Robin Rauzi (Los Angeles Times) complains, “Who else other than teens are going to laugh hysterically at a septuagenarian using the toilet?” I think Robin must have rented a movie theater for a private viewing. Lawrence Toppman (The Charlotte Observer) observes, “A nasty toilet scene went too far for me, but the audience roared at it.” I suspect those roars came from adults, too. That was my experience anyway.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “Big Momma’s noisy visit to the bathroom is scary, not funny.” This leads me to ask the following question: Did Roger Ebert have a bad childhood experience with stewed prunes? I hope he is brave enough to go to the bathroom by himself nowadays.
Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune) deeply dissects Momma: “How can you look at a skinny man covered with latex and believe it’s the ‘Momma’ you grew up can Malcolm duplicate Momma’s speech patterns and carry on conversations with people who’ve known her for years?”
This movie isn’t mission impossible, Mr. Wilmington. This is mission possible. Anything can happen in a movie with a weak plot and a skinny comedian in a latex fat woman suit.
Susan Stark (Detroit News) got it right: “Once Big Momma gets him into body-suit and full drag, it pretty much forgets the silly plot and concentrates on the comic possibilities of the situation. This is feeble scripting, but hardly anyone is likely to care; the plot’s going nowhere, so why not bring on the fun?” Exactly, Susan! The character, Big Momma, was a riot to watch.
Tom Meek ( says, “His tongue-tied lust for Sherry is uproarious and the smackdown game of two-on-two (“Granny’s got game!”) against some playground punks is the film’s crowning jewel.” Big Momma’s church service and her self-defense class were equally funny.
Karen Moline (Movieline) sums the movie up best: “Despite the cliché set-ups of Big Momma, the spirit is wonderfully lighthearted, the comic timing so impeccable, the slapstick endlessly silly, and the editing just snappy enough to keep audiences laughing.”
Of the two TV critic shows, “The New Movie Show with Chris Gore” (FX Channel) wins hands down over “Roger Ebert and the Movies” (Buena Vista TV). Ebert gives a “thumbs down” while Gore says, “If you’re looking for a comedy that will make you laugh out loud, see it in the theater.”
This film is an average two star comedy. Many critics condemned “Big Momma’s House” because they took the story too serious. Go see this film and you will indeed laugh. But don’t expect much else.
And if you’re huge Roger Ebert fan, you might want to cover your eyes and ears when Big Momma releases those prunes.
— Critic Doctor

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