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Big Momma's House: Special Edition

Martin Lawrence has always been able to make people laugh, but his humor sometimes has a mean-spirited edge to it. That's why Big Momma's House — a comedy about an undercover FBI agent (Lawrence) trying to nab an escaped criminal — succeeds in the end. Big Momma (Ella Mitchell), who's bossy, always tells it like it is, and cooks with more lard than KFC probably uses in a year, manages to pull off a fairly miraculous stunt — she turns Martin Lawrence into a sweetie-pie. It all starts when thrill-seeking G-man Malcolm (Lawrence) and his partner John (Paul Giamatti) stake out Big Momma's house in an effort to get to her granddaughter, Sherry (Nia Long), the ex-girlfriend of the crook they're after. When Big Momma leaves unexpectedly before Sherry arrives, master of disguise Malcolm decides to break out the makeup and fat suit and take her place. Buried a yard deep in various prosthetics, Lawrence actually becomes Big Momma, letting her homespun honesty and big-heartedness make his rapid-fire comedy just a little bit softer. That's not to say the movie is all sweetness and light, though; far from it. Any film that includes a raunchy set piece based on a 70-year-old woman's, um, intestinal problems (read: toilet humor) isn't aiming high. Heck, there aren't even all that many zinger-worthy one-liners or huge guffaws. But Big Momma's House, which owes a lot to both Mrs. Doubtfire and Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor, is still appealing, even if it isn't a terrific movie. A lot of that is because of the cast — Lawrence brings a cheerful agility to Big Momma, and Long and Giamatti turn in solid (if slightly predictable) performances as Lawrence's love interest and fellow FBI agent, respectively. And although she doesn't get much screen time as Hattie Mae (the real Big Momma), Ella Mitchell brings a little dignity to what might otherwise have been a flat caricature. Watching her, you can understand why no one — even Martin Lawrence — wants to mess with Big Momma. Perhaps she leaned her considerable weight on the folks at Fox, too, because the special edition DVD offers a long list of features. In addition to an informative commentary track by director Raja Gosnell and producer David Friendly, there's a 22-minute "making-of" featurette called "Building Big Momma's House," a funny makeup test that features Lawrence (in full regalia) doing Big Momma doing Julia Child (!), two deleted scenes, six minutes of bloopers and outtakes, two music videos, theatrical trailers, three TV spots, and scene selection. The THX-mastered audio and picture are great — the widescreen transfer is crisp, and the DD 5.1 surround delivers. Other language options include Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and French, and English and Spanish subtitles. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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