A humorless mash-up of White Chicks and Glee, Like Father, Like Son is almost a torch-passing picture, with Lawrence, trapped in the fat suit that has become his career, almost a bystander in his own movie, second banana to young Brandon T. Jackson (Lottery Ticket, Roll Bounce).
Jackson plays Trent, the stepson who wants a hip hop career as the Prodigy, but whose FBI agent step-dad, Malcolm (Lawrence), has decided will go to Duke University. Agent Turner is also on a big case and doesn't need this hassle with the kid.
Trent needs an adult to sign a recording contract. But his strategy of nagging Malcolm while on stakeout backfires when he witnesses a murder. Malcolm needs to check out a girls' school for the arts where some evidence might be hidden, so he dons the fat suit and dress one more time. And he puts Trent in the same get-up to protect him from the least-convincing Russian mobster (Tony Curran) in the history of cinema.
Trent, disguised as Charmaine, is a teen in a candy store among all the nubile, nighty-wearing coeds. Malcolm, as Big Momma, takes a House Mother job and tries to pass the wisdom of age on to the highly strung young painters, dancers, actresses, and musicians there — lecturing them on body image and eating disorders and the like.
"Every day you don't demand respect, you die a little."
Critic's Rating *
**** Very Good
Written by John Whitesell, screenplay by Matthew Fogel. A 20th Century Fox release.
Playing at Fox Woodville and Raven Fallen Timbers, Franklin Park, and Levis Commons.
Rated PG-13 for some sexual humor and brief violence. Running time 107 minutes.
Jessica Lucas is Haley, the pretty young thing Trent wants to get out of her dress, if only he can get out of his. And Faizon Love is a roly-poly maintenance man with an eye for Big Momma's big thighs.
The novelty of seeing Lawrence in a dress wore off at about the same time Eddie Murphy wore out his own fat suit. Lawrence registers under the makeup, but he's playing this character on fumes. Jackson does the heavier lifting, convincing as a rapper but entirely too old to be playing a teenager unsure of his moves.
Director John Whitesell (Deck the Halls) still hasn't discovered the secret to "funny." The airless Matthew Fogel-Don Rhymer script makes one long for the snark and sass of Madea. Whatever Perry's shortcomings as a writer, he manages to find a few laughs even on his worst day. And he makes a far more convincing little old — BIG — old lady.
Lawrence, like Mike Myers, a comic peer, has become trapped in the one persona that still pays the bills. And that character isn't funny anymore. This Momma is a mother of a mess.