In "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son," Martin Lawrence & Co. hit Tyler Perry where he lives. They take the black-man-in-drag wars into Madea country -- Atlanta -- for this sad excuse for a cross-dressing sequel.
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 F.B.I. 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."
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. He 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 ("Deck the Halls") Whitesell 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.
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson, Jessica Lucas, Faizon Love
Director: John Whitesell
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual humor and brief violence