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A straight-laced suburban tax lawyer is abruptly blindsided by a former jailbird from the hood in the explosive comedy Bringing Down the House.
A strictly conservative suit-and-tie kind of guy, Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) is devoted to his work at the firm. But his employment commitment has left his family on hold one too many times. Now the divorced dad is living on his own while wondering what went wrong.
Although still in love with his ex-wife (Jean Smart), he starts sharing legal advice with a new acquaintance in an on-line chat room. When the relationship moves from judicial rulings to more personal details, the couple decides to meet. But Peter is not the only one who's been enhancing his image on the instant messenger system. In reality, the slim, blonde bombshell he expects to meet turns out to be a convicted armed robber who affirms her innocence and wants help clearing her name.
Not interested in taking the case, the disappointed date shoos Charlene (Queen Latifah) out the door. But her unruly ranting in the front yard draws curious stares from his priggish neighbor (Betty White) and soon has the embarrassed attorney pulling the screaming woman back inside.
Moving into the lawyer's perfectly run household, the boisterous offender upsets every thought of order or routine. While giving him explicit advice on improving his amatory prowess, the two adults are caught in a compromising situation that interferes with Peter's attempt to win his wife back. Charlene also overlooks his daughter's (Kimberly J. Brown) sneaking out schemes and employs some unconventional reading material -- a pornographic magazine -- to help his son (Angus T. Jones) improve his literary skills.
After showing up unannounced at his exclusive club, the street talking felon threatens to hamper Peter's efforts to win the billion-dollar account of an elderly heiress (Joan Plowright). But despite the taxman's frustrations with the ex-con, his law firm colleague, Howie (Eugene Levy) is unabashedly smitten with Charlene.
Relying on high energy, physical comedy that borders between offensive and funny, the film is packed with controversial jokes and racial comments. Bigotry goes unchallenged and illegal drug use, guns, and the criminal element are exclusively the property of the inner city community. While bedroom scenes are banished from the script, verbal innuendo is teamed with provocative dancing in a nightclub and a high action couch scene that makes sexual content another prevalent concern for parents.
As their two diverse worlds uncomfortably clash, Charlene goes to whatever lengths she needs to in order to get a little legal aid. Even if that means shaking the rafters in a part of town where the only noticeable ethnic groups appear to be household help or crooks.
Bringing Down the House is rated PG-13: for language, sexual humour and drug material
Cast: Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Jean Smart