Bringing Down the House (film)

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Bringing Down the House
Bringing down the house poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Adam Shankman
Produced by David Hoberman
Ashok Amritraj
Written by Jason Filardi
Starring Steve Martin
Queen Latifah
Eugene Levy
Joan Plowright
Jean Smart
Missi Pyle
and Betty White
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Julio Macat
Edited by Gerald B. Greenberg
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates March 7, 2003
Running time 105 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $33 million
Box office $164,729,679

Bringing Down the House is a 2003 American comedy film, written by Jason Filardi and directed by Adam Shankman. The film stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.


Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) is a workaholic tax attorney working for a set of competitive colleagues and bosses names of Tobias, Kilne, and Barnes. While he tries to turn his life around and having just been divorced with his ex-wife Kate Sanderson (Jean Smart) and lost privileges to his children, 15-year-old Sarah Sanderson (Kimberly J. Brown) and 8-year-old Georgie Sanderson (Angus T. Jones), he tells his wife that the previously planned Hawaii trip will not happen, but he lets them be in their house for some allotted time. He shows up late to a restaurant where Peter also must deal with Virginia Arness (Joan Plowright), an eccentric English billionaire, to bring her business to his firm and corresponding with an online friend known only as "lawyer-girl". On their first blind date, Peter learns that "lawyer-girl" is a black woman named Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah), a wrongfully convicted bank robber claiming her innocence who wants Peter's help in getting the charges dropped. He kicks her out but then decides let her stay due to the way, Mrs. Kline (Betty White) could feel if he was associated with her. Mrs. Kline, who is Peter's neighbor, is also his boss' sister and a racist bigot who sometimes plays poker with Georgie. As Peter picks up the kids, he tricks Charlene to make her leave, but she breaks into the house and get her friends to the house. As they drive home, he realizes that Charlene didn't give up on leaving his house and now forces her to leave the house. While Howie Rottman (Eugene Levy) and Peter are waiting to have Peter make a deal promised for Mrs. Virginia Arness, she appears to finally convince him to help her out. Ashley (Missi Pyle) who is a wanna-be bad girl thinks she is here to serve drinks and food. However, Peter makes it seem that she is the nanny of his house since his ex-wife is not with him. Much later, Charlene appeared in Peter's office informing him of new evidence. When his associate Sofia (Tracey Jones) told Peter that one of his bosses Mr. Edward Tobias (Jim Haynie) wanted to see him, he & Howie tried to get her out of there but to no avail as Tobias showed up before them. But the two gentlemen managed to get off the hook when Charlene told Ed about Peter helping with the financial situation at a church and then left. At the golf resort where Peter played a round with Mrs. Arness and Howie and Charlene are having a talk, Ashley talks trash and nasty enough for Charlene to get in a fight with Ashley. Georgie sits with Charlene as she starts to help him develop his reading skills to impress his dad but by way of an inappropriate magazine Charlene found under the desk of Peter's. Georgie later goes to Mrs. Kline's house for ladies' poker night. At the same time, Sarah and her friend tricks her father into thinking she's going to dinner with him at his house; but in actuality they were going to a party. Meanwhile, Peter goes out to eat with Charlene and for the first time since the start of his divorce, he begins to have fun, & Peter & Charlene danced. But Ashley and Kate, who were also at the restaurant were very scared of the scenario. When they returned home, they started having sex, but as a way for Peter to get Kate back. When she brought Georgie back, Mrs. Kline believed in him accidentally bumping his nanny and the next day, Peter explained the whole situation to his bosses. Later that night by the pool, Charlene was speaking to her old boyfriend Widow (Steve Harris) about another piece of new evidence that could help or hurt Charlene. Then Charlene and Widow reconcile after which Peter confronted her, thinking they were planning another crime. Then Peter convinced Charlene not to have any further visitors. Next, Peter received a call from Sarah who asked her father if she wants to speak to Charlene. So she did and she asked Charlene to take her home. When Charlene arrived at the house Sarah was in, Sarah informed Charlene that she lied to Peter and actually had a different boyfriend who tried to have sex with her to which Sarah refused. So to teach the guy a lesson, Charlene hung him by his ankle at the balcony and forced him to tell Sarah that he's sorry and will never try to do it again. As Charlene took Sarah home, Peter realizes that she was with bad friends and doesn't get angry after Charlene told her father, "Sarah didn't need a warden, she needed her father." The next night Mrs. Arness comes for dinner but the same night she's there she realizes that Peter was hiring the wrongfully committed bank robber (Charlene Morton). So she walked out and at the same time, Peter kicked Charlene out. The next day at his firm, Peter fearing that his boss was going to fire him, realizes that Arness didn't call the cops but the FBI. Peter ran out of the firm in terror but not before Howie asked him to tell Charlene if & when he sees her, this term: "The cool points are out the window and she's got him all twisted up in the game." When Peter got into his car and after adjusting his rear view mirror, he saw Widow in the back. Widow threatened Peter not to reopen Charlene's case nor go anywhere near her. With that threat in his mind, Peter started his car and drove off, causing Widow to roll out. This made Peter realize that Charlene is innocent and framed by Widow as he made the case affect him all along as he was in hiding. So he decides to forgive Charlene and tried to call her, but he doesn't know where Charlene is until Sarah told Peter that Charlene has his cell phone, so he called her by his house phone. Charlene now knows who set her up and Peter is determined to get a confession. Howie's positive attention begins to get Charlene to be with him. They reach the Arness house but trouble doesn't come due to William Shakespeare (her dog) being tied up and Julia, Arness' assistant out of reach. Todd Gendler (Michael Rosenbaum), Peter's rival & his apparent replacement gets a punch from Charlene for making a negative remark. Back at the house, the kids of Peter's try to persuade their mom to believing that he moved on from the old ways and he doesn't think about himself anymore. Later, we saw Peter drive up to "The Down Low", the gangster club of Widow's and make a final confrontation, disguising himself to get in undetected. Widow arrived later and when he saw Peter in disguise, he got his bodyguards to take Peter in the backroom. The other three (Charlene, Howie and Arness) arrived shorty after. Howie & Charlene figure a way to save Peter while Arness was having drinks next to two customers. Meanwhile in the room, Peter told Widow he & Charlene now knows who Widow accomplice was; but Widow told Peter that there was no accomplice at all, & it was just Widow in disguise. After Charlene called the FBI, she was about to go into the backroom when Peter & Widow came out. Widow threw Peter onto the floor, & then points the gun at both Charlene and Howie. Peter elbows Widow in the groin, causing him to drop the gun. Howie grabs the gun and points it at Widow and his bodyguards, but Peter accidentally nudges Howie and he fires the gun towards the bar, causing everyone to panic and run out the club. Charlene and Widow ensue in a fistfight, but Widow quickly gets his gun off the floor and points it at Charlene. Widow shoots Charlene and she falls on the couch, presumably dead. This angers Howie and he jumps on Widow trying to fight him. Peter goes over to Charlene to grief but Charlene wakes up and pulls out her cellphone out of her shirt and reveals the bullet went through the phone, saving her life. The FBI agents come in the club to arrest them. However, Peter has a lot of proof to not only make Charlene's record expunged, but to put Widow away for a long time. Mrs. Arness almost wants no more from Peter, but Peter escorted her to an all-night diner, convincing her to make Peter her lawyer again. The next day, Gendler tells Ed that he called Arness four times with no success since she said she'll only talk to Peter. The bosses were about to keep Peter around when they saw Peter & company move out. When Peter, Howie and Sofia move out, Tobias, and his other bosses are sorry for understanding new dynamic in Peter but in self-retiring from the firm, he moves out of the office saying, "Ed, you can kiss my natural black ass!" At the new office, Charlene thanks him for everything he did with one final appreciated remark and she now leaves Peter to have a good conversation with his wife. With asking to give him a second chance, she does and reconciles once and for all. The end of the film shows Charlene putting braids on Howie's head and she brings down the shade.


  • Steve Martin as Peter Sanderson. An uptight lawyer who reluctantly helps Charlene with her case. They eventually bond, becoming close friends.
  • Queen Latifah as Charlene Morton. An escaped convict who was framed seeks Peter's help in proving her innocence. Over the course of the film, she bonds with Peter and the family as she poses as their nanny. Howie's love interest.
  • Eugene Levy as Howie Rottman, Peter's over-sexed best friend and colleague. He falls madly in love with Charlene upon meeting her.
  • Jean Smart as Kate Sanderson, Peter's ex-wife. It is apparent that they still harbor feelings for one another, as she is jealous of his new friendship with Charlene, believing them to be in a relationship.
  • Missi Pyle as Ashley, Kate's evil, promiscuous, and alcoholic sister. She sleeps with old men for their money.
  • Joan Plowright as Virginia Arness, An arrogant client of Peter's.
  • Betty White as Mrs. Kline, Peter's racist neighbor.
  • Kimberly J. Brown as Sarah Sanderson, Peter's daughter and older child.
  • Angus T. Jones as George "Georgie" Sanderson, Peter's son and younger child.
  • Michael Rosenbaum as Todd Gendler, Peter's arrogant colleague & apparent replacement.
  • Steve Harris as Widow, Charlene's shady ex-boyfriend.
  • Matt Lutz as Aaron
  • Victor Webster as Glen
  • Kelly Price as herself


A soundtrack containing hip hop and R&B music was released on March 4, 2003 by Hollywood Records. It peaked at 111 on the Billboard 200 and 23 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.



Since the film's release in 2003, Bringing Down the House has received mixed to negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film a "rotten" score of 34% based on 148 reviews, the general consensus being, "Though the cast shines, they can't save this comedy, which is overly contrived and filled with outdated and offensive racial jokes."

Box office[edit]

On a budget of $35 million, the film became a surprise hit. It earned $132.6 million in the United States and an international gross of $32 million, bringing its worldwide gross to $164.6 million.[1] As of March 2009, it is ranked #231 of the All Time Top Grossing USA Motion Pictures.[2]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Queen Latifah

Steve Martin

  • Nominated – MTV Movie Award for Best Dance Sequence


External links[edit]