Here’s the kindest thing that can be said about “Big Momma’s House 2”: It’s Martin Lawrence’s best movie in years. Probably since the original “Big Momma’s House,” and that came out back in 2000.
Then again, his films since then have included the lame buddy comedies “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” and “National Security,” the wannabe feel-good basketball flick “Rebound” and his dud of a concert film “Runteldat.”
Something about putting on that fat suit and blond wig and those oversized, floral-print dresses, though, brings out the qualities that made him a star in the first place.
You won’t see anything new here, just more of the same broad gags as Lawrence’s FBI agent, Malcolm Turner, goes undercover as Big Momma to work as a nanny in a suspect’s house.
The film from director John Whitesell (“Malibu’s Most Wanted,” say no more), based on a script by Don Rhymer, who also wrote the original, has something to do with a hacker using a worm to steal government secrets. Not that it matters, because functioning as an action movie is clearly secondary to the opportunities for physical comedy.
It’s a one-joke character in a one-joke movie. But while Lawrence is in disguise, he manages to be grotesque and vaguely endearing at the same time, to make you squirm and occasionally laugh in spite of yourself.
Here, Big Momma goes to work in the upscale Orange County home of Tom Fuller (Mark Moses from “Desperate Housewives”) who’s being investigated for taking part in a potential national security breach.
Tom and his overzealously organized wife, Leah (the perky Emily Procter), have three kids — rebellious teenager Molly (Kat Dennings), junior-high cheerleader Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) and youngster Andrew (Preston and Trevor Shores) who never speaks but likes to jump from the furniture and land flat on his face. Obviously they will all learn tough-love life lessons while in the formidable presence of Lawrence in drag.
At the same time, Malcolm neglects his own family: Sherrie (Nia Long, returning from the first movie) who’s now his extremely pregnant wife, and his stepson, Trent (Jascha Washington). Both barely register — Long does a bit more, if only because the stereotypical wifely nagging she’s been saddled with is so grating.
But there are a couple of images that are undeniably funny. The one that lingers most — something like a psychotic vision — features Lawrence as Big Momma, running along the beach in slow-motion like Bo Derek in “10,” complete with the one-piece bathing suit and long, beaded cornrows, her chunks of faux cellulite wobbling in the sunshine.
Maybe “Big Momma’s House 2” is neither an action flick nor a comedy. Maybe it’s a horror movie.