Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

For many years, scientists believed that the sight of an ordinary man dressed as a fat woman was literally the funniest thing in the world. Countless films were produced based on this premise, each more side-splitting than the last, each delighting viewers with its surefire mixture of giant latex bosoms and farts. There was a feeling of euphoria throughout the land as mankind celebrated its arrival at the pinnacle of comedy.

But then, one day, a crazy, disheveled man burst into a scientists’ conference, ranting that he had found something EVEN FUNNIER. The scientists dismissed him as a harmless lunatic, of course, before realizing it was Martin Lawrence. Then they dismissed him as a dangerous lunatic. Still, they listened.

“I’ve found it!” the frothing maniac shouted. “I’ve found something funnier than an ordinary man dressed as a fat woman: TWO men dressed as TWO fat women!”

There was a moment of stunned silence in the auditorium, followed by a flurry of activity as the scientists performed calculations and double-checked complicated algorithms. “Great Fermat’s marginalia, he’s right!” one shouted. “That IS funnier!”

And that, my friends, is the origin of “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son” — the funniest film in the history of cinema.

The preceding sarcasm has been deployed as a coping device, made necessary by the absence of liquor or narcotics in the reviewer’s apartment. For in truth, this sequel to “Big Momma’s House” and “Big Momma’s House 2” is a rancid, unwatchable load, devoid of mirth and joy, and an enemy to all that is good. You expect a certain level of awfulness from this franchise — let’s be honest, you expect a certain level of awfulness from post-1995 Martin Lawrence — but the idiocy on display here is breathtaking.

Lawrence reprises his role as Malcolm Turner, an FBI agent who has gone undercover as a morbidly obese grandmother twice already and is evidently itching for another opportunity. He gets it when his 17-year-old stepson, Trent (Brandon T. Jackson), witnesses a murder, and the two of them must go into hiding. The only safe place, naturally, would be an all-girls school for the performing arts where one of the dorms needs a housemother. Luckily, there is just such an institution here in this very city! Also very luckily, this school is where an important flash drive full of evidence has been hidden. Malcolm and Trent can hide from the killers AND look for the flash drive AND dress up like fat women AND fall down a lot, all at once!

(The part where Malcolm has to convince his stepson to do this is omitted altogether. Malcolm says something like, “I have an idea,” and we cut to the two of them in costume. The movie doesn’t even TRY to do a scene where Malcolm talks him into it.)

Malcolm’s character is Big Momma, who is morbidly obese (i.e., HILARIOUS), and Trent’s is Charmaine, who is only a little chunky. Charmaine, claiming to be Big Momma’s niece — and evidently allowed to attend a prestigious school for the arts on that credential alone — blends in with the girls and quickly falls in love with Haley (Jessica Lucas), a winsome pianist. Big Momma, meanwhile, snoops around for the missing flash drive, fending off advances from a lovestruck custodian named Kurtis (Faizon Love).

Brandon T. Jackson (from “Tropic Thunder”) actually looks fairly convincing as Charmaine. Probably not up close, and probably not for an extended period of time, and certainly not once he fixes Haley up with his “cousin,” Trent, and starts dashing back and forth, changing in and out of his costume to be two people at once. (Yes, it’s one of THOSE movies.) But he looks all right. Lawrence, on the other hand, as Big Momma: yikes. If you saw this monstrosity in real life, you would not assume it was just a regular old lady. You would assume it had accidentally been brought here from another dimension by military testing. Big Momma’s head looks like someone tried to sculpt a bullfrog out of pudding, then let it melt.

Ah, if only the shoddiness of the disguises were the film’s only flaw! I guarantee that if you have seen even one cross-dressing comedy, you have seen every single device used here. The screenplay, by first-timer Matthew Fogel and “Big Momma” veteran Don Rhymer, is almost admirably lazy: It contains not one original idea. Trent is a horndog who can’t believe his good fortune at getting to live in a girls’ dorm. He sometimes forgets to speak in a high-pitched voice. He and Haley go clothes shopping; she sees no reason not to share a fitting room; he nearly passes out from excitement. Nowhere in this do you find even a spark of creativity, no solid one-liners, no twists on the formula. Nowhere in this do you find anything, in fact, that isn’t completely irritating, predictable, simple-minded, and insulting.

As if that weren’t enough, remember how this is a school for the performing arts? That means one thing: musical numbers! Trent is an amateur rapper, which means Charmaine is pretty good on the mike, too, yo. There’s an excruciating “spontaneous” performance in the cafeteria that ends with Big Momma dancing on a table (why not?) before it collapses under her weight. (I guess we’re supposed to assume Malcolm’s fat suit weighs as much as an actual fat person.) The climax of the film coincides with the school’s big talent show. If you love the sloppy, unfunny slapstick of the “Big Momma’s House” movies but always wished they were more like deleted scenes from “High School Musical,” this is definitely the movie that you should ask your caretaker to let you see the next time you’re permitted to leave the group home.

F (1 hr., 40 min.; PG-13, a little profanity, some vulgar humor, action violence.)