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Arts & Entertainment
One Popcorn, Poor • Two Popcorns, Fair • Three Popcorns, Good • Four Popcorns, Excellent
By Michael S. Goldberger
Big Momma’s House
Little Laughs In the Low Rent District
The most amazing thing about Big Momma’s House is that it isn’t nearly as bad as the advertisements would leave you to believe. And while that’s hardly reason enough to recommend a movie, it does at least earn this bit of witless diversion the chance of a little more scrutiny than is usually accorded such flotsam, or jetsam for that matter.
But what’s the rationale for this heightened examination? Ultimately, we’re going to dismiss it as just so much pap anyway. The reason is curiosity. We want to know: Why isn’t it that bad?
The short answer to this filmic inquest is the comically ambitious Martin Lawrence in the title role. Well, sharing the title role is more accurate.
You see, there’s already a Big Momma (Ella Mitchell ) alive and well in Georgia when FBI agent Malcolm (Mr. Lawrence) and his partner (Paul Giamatti) are assigned to stakeout the hefty Southern gal’s home.
It all has to do with a bankrobbing killer, Lester (Terrence Howard), who just so happens to have a girlfriend and presumed accomplice, Sherry (Nia Long), who was raised by Big Momma. And the thinking is that both the murderer and his attractive associate will seek asylum at the large lady’s home.
But wouldn’t you just know it. Just as they arrive in Southern climes, Big Momma is called away to help a sick friend. What’s an FBI agent with a penchant for dress up to do? Well, that’s simple enough for anyone who has ever been to the movies.
When you don’t know what to do in a motion picture, just cross dress. It’s always a fearheightening ploy in suspense yarns (Psycho, Dressed to Kill)
and is inevitably good for a few laughs in lighter fare. Hence, by impersonating Big Momma and doing the Mrs. Doubtfire/ Victor/ Victoria thing, not only is the FBI man preserving the bait to lure his suspects, but Mr. Lawrence is assured of more opportunity for character comedy than the otherwise lacklustre script by Darryl Quarles and Don Rhymer would provide.
Lawrence, aided by a game and merry cast, mixes just enough selfeffacing humor with his genderbending satire to keep Big Momma from total obscurity. And while a rather borderline bathroom scene is one of the few memorable moments that Mr. Lawrence etches on the way to carrying this film, the comedian establishes a likeability that also has a part in making up for the movie’s dearth of truly inventive material.
Otherwise, the plot has only two gears: mistaken identity and degradation of character. There are no great punch lines and even less comic nuance. It makes you wonder what Mr. Lawrence, who can mug and play the Keatonesque hero with notable élan, might do with a world class script.
Just a quick segue here, though: an enigma that will probably go unanswered is how a story this thin and simplistic could possibly require the collaboration of two writers. Granted, part of Big Momma’s charm is its unpretentious predictablity — its almost innocent narrative; as if told by a
fibbing child who was making it up as he went along. But this effect is completely unintentional. And in trying to understand the need for two writers, we must wonder if one scribe tapped away at the word processor while the other merely operated the shift key.
Insofar as the boyincostumemeetsgirl scenario, director Raja Gosnell recycles an angle so overused that it probably has a part number. As the mother figure, Malcolm’s Big Momma consoles the wayward lady. But as a local handyman, Lawrence’s karatekicking GMan plays both ends against the middle, ingratiating himself with the single mom and her son Trent (Jascha Washington).
Thank goodness viewers are spared the usual close calls, wherein the real gal almost finds out the fake gal is really a guy and that the guy is really another guy, at least not until the windup; this movie simply couldn’t handle those complications. Yet while Malcolm’s original intent was to establish Sherry’s culpability, it does perfunctorily follow that the F. B. I. ’s answer to Lon Chaney falls for his pulchritudinous prey.
There is something to be said for such featherbrained fluff, even when so poorly fashioned. Who knows if even Albert Einstein himself didn’t occasionally skip a night of equation solving for a lowstress game of Chutes and Ladders. And thus only in this vein might one rationalize a viewing of Mr. Lawrence’s hokey little movie.
In the neighborhood of mindless entertainment, Big Momma’s House
can boast location, location, location. * * * * *
Big Momma’s House, rated PG13, is a 20th Century Fox release directed by Raja Gosnell and stars Martin Lawrence, Nia Long and Paul Giamatti. Running time: 97 minutes.
ART AND SOUL… Middle and Senior high students are invited to register for “Art and Soul,” a musical workshop to be held at Plainfield United Church of Christ from July 31 to August 10. The program is part of the Rainbow Experience, a multicultural coalition formed of teen members of the First Congregational Church of Westfield, the Plainfield United Congregational Church, and area youth. Pictured, above, is the ensemble from a spring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Bassist Beth Satkin Performs With Washington Chamber
WESTFIELD — Westfield resident Beth Satkin performed with the Washington Chamber Symphony at the Kennedy Center on May 21 in the “Viva
Art & Soul Summer Workshop Now Accepting Registration
WESTFIELD – Art & Soul, a musical workshop for teenagers, will be offered this summer as a joint project of the First Congregational Church of Westfield and the Plainfield United Church of Christ. The program will be held weekdays from 9 a. m. to 4: 30 p. m. from July 31 to August 10 at the United Church of Christ, 220 West Seventh Street, Plainfield.
Directed by Harry Ailster, the twoweek workshop will cover all aspects of musical production, including drama, dance, stage management, and theater crafts and set design. Mr. Ailster has over 10 years of experience di recting youth theater projects in the
Union County area. The program will culminate in a final performance on August 10 at 7: 30 p. m.
Art & Soul is part of the Rainbow Experience, a multicultural collaboration between the First Congregational Church in Westfield, the Plainfield United Congregational Church (UCC) and other area youth. The coalition was launched this year with a fullscale production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Art & Soul is open to area youth entering grades 6 to 12. The fee of $200 includes lunch and snack daily. Scholarships are available. Registration with a nonrefundable $50 deposit should be sent by Monday, June 26, to UCC, 220 West Seventh Street, Plainfield, 07060.
Final payment is due by July 24. For more information, please contact the UCC at (908) 7558658.
Junior Musical Club Holds Senior Recital at Church
WESTFIELD – The Junior Musical Club of Westfield held their Senior Recital on May 7 at the First Baptist Church in Westfield. The concert was free and open to the public.
At the Senior Recital, graduating high school seniors in the Junior Musical Club performed an arrangement of songs showcasing their years of tutelage.
All of the students who performed plan to attend college next year, and while their choice of study is diverse, all plan to continue music either professionally or recreationally.
Also at the Senior Recital, younger officers were voted in, to take the places of those leaving. On June 4, the Executive Board held a pizza party to pass on the official duties of the club.
Beth Satkin Germaine B. Trabert Re-Appointed to Post At State Arts Council
WESTFIELD – New Jersey State Council on the Arts has announced that Germaine B. Trabert of Westfield has been reappointed to the organization. screamed as they passed.
“The Halo,” what Woodford describes as a “shuffly, jazzy” kind of tune, depicted their journey by recollecting what they saw as a “halo of neon over Las Vegas” as one looks back to the casino and quickiewedding mecca.
“It was the most exciting driving into the city and seeing this explosion of neon,” said Radus. He described the music that came out of the experience as a “bluesy riff or dirty, grungy riff.”
However, looking back, Woodford and Radus are basking in a glow all their own: if they can survive and persevere through the Sedona, there is nothing that can keep them down.
CDs are available at mariawoodford. com and alexradus. com, (800)BUYMYCD and at performances.
Woodford and Radus hope to record another project, specifically a double CD with both live and studio sound, in the spring. Until then, performances will be held at the following venues:
·The Crossroads in Garwood – Tonight, June 15 with Scotch Plains musician Al Madison.
·The Crossroads in Garwood – Every Wednesday evening from 11 to 12.
·The Jolley Trolley in Westfield on Mondays, June 19 and June 26.
Selections from Woodford’s CD, “Brighter Path,” may be heard at www. goleader. com/ ae.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 22
Woodford & Radus
Vivaldi” festival. Beth, a double bassist, was one of 40 musicians selected from over 650 applicants throughout North America to perform in the AllGirl Vivaldi Orchestra. The orchestra was a historical recreation of one that Vivaldi conducted, comprised of girls from the Venice orphanage he ran 300 years ago.
Beth recently completed her freshman year at Brown University, where she is Principal Bass of the Brown University Orchestra. She is a graduate of Westfield High School and the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division.
She has also studied with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Institute. As Principal Bass of the New Jersey AllState Orchestra, Beth received the 1999 Governor’s Award for Orchestral Music. She also performed at Carnegie Hall in the 1999 AllEaster Honors Orchestra.
Rec. Commission Announces Summer Concert Series Dates
WESTFIELD – The Westfield Recreation Commission’s 2000 Summer Concert Series is underway. Concerts will be held each Thursday evening through August 10 at 8 p. m. at the gazebo in Mindowaskin Park in Westfield.
·June 15 – New Jersey Workshop for the Arts Jazz Night
·June 22 – Westfield Community Concert Band
·June 29 – Westfield Community Concert Band
·July 6 – Westfield Community Concert Band (Independence Day Celebrations)
·July 13 – Westfield Community Concert Band
·July 20 — Westfield Community Concert Band
·July 27 – Libby & Co. – Contemporary Jazz
·August 3 – Salaam Temple String Band
·August 10 – Normandy Invasion Jazz Band
The concerts are free of charge to the public and feature a variety of musical and instrumental groups. For more information, please call the Westfield Recreation Commission at (908) 7894080.
Calling AllLocal Laureates
The Arts & Entertainment Editor is looking for a few good poets. If you would like to see your poetry considered for publication in a new section called “Local Laureates,” please send to: Michelle H. LePoidevin, P. O. Box 250, 50 Elm St., Westfield, 07091 or email: michelle@ goleader. com. No simultaneous submissions to other poetry journals or publications will be considered.
Westfield Art Association Presents Awards at Exhibit
WESTFIELD — Awards presented at the opening reception of the 76th Annual Members’ Watercolor, Graphics and Photography Exhibition held from April 1518 in the Community Room of the Westfield Municipal Building were announced by the Westfield Art Association (WAA).
The Norman Webb Award for the best watercolor was garnered by Clair Torgersen for the painting “Far Village.” Awards of Excellence were presented to Paul Casale for his watercolor “On the Rail,” to Marie Gerus for her watercolor “Kauai Colors,” to Craig Long for his intaglio print “Comrade” and to Barbara Schwinn for her tripleexposure photograph “Glad.”
Awards of Merit were presented to James Malady for his watercolor “At Mrs. Comerford’s Pub,” to Fran Maurer for her watercolor “White on White,” to Susan Puder for her photograph “Beach Path” and to Audrey Wreszin for her watercolor “Tidal Pool.”
Honorable Mentions were earned by Lydia Brunelli for her watercolor “The Irish Influence,” to Phil Kass for his watercolor “Ancient Irish Anchor,” to Vicki Gainsburg for her watercolor “Turk’s Cap Lilies,” to Robert Loder, Jr. for his acrylic “Storm Off Pemaquid Point,” to Burton Longenbach for his watercolor “Landscape Energies,” to Jean Luce for her photograph “Contemplation,” to Lynn Nicoletti for her watercolor “Brazen Blooms,” to Betty Stroppel for her watercolor “Daily Mail” and to Joan Watterson for her watercolor “Down East.”
The People’s Choice Award went to Fran Maurer for her watercolor “White on White.”
The Westfield Art Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation for fine art. Artists and nonartists like are welcomed into membership. For further information, please call (908) 2327058 or visit www. westfieldnj. com/ waa.
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