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Comedians in drag

Comedians in drag — Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy don dresses for ”Big Momma’s House” and ”The Nutty Professor II”

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First it was asteriods. Then it was ants. This summer, the are-we-seeing-double? movie theme seems to be comedians in drag as elderly, overweight women. In Fox’s Big Momma’s House, Martin Lawrence plays an FBI agent who goes undercover as an obese Southern grandmother, while Universal’s Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (the sequel to 1996’s The Nutty Professor) features Eddie Murphy playing, among others, plump Grandma Klump. Though the films’ plots differ, their surface similarities apparently caused some executive hand-wringing.

According to sources, Fox moved Big Momma‘s release from August to June 2 in part to avoid the Klumps juggernaut (the latter opens July 28). In recent weeks, say insiders, Big Momma‘s filmmakers have been hurriedly putting final touches on it to meet deadline. Says Universal’s president of marketing Marc Shmuger: ”I expect [Fox] feared [The Klumps] was too significant an event title to be on the heels of.”

For its part, Fox denies the weight of The Klumps forced Big Momma out of August. ”When Martin had his illness, we had to push back the start date,” says studio president Tom Rothman, referring to the comedian’s 1999 hospitalization for fever and coma. ”But it was always targeted as a late-spring or early-summer movie…. The movies are quite different and there’s plenty of business out there for good pictures.” But, adds Rothman, ”We are glad to be in the market first.”