John Patterson, an undercover FBI agent, has been identified and is ordered by a Korean mob boss to be killed in an illegal underground dog-fighting arena in Korea. John is rescued by his undercover partner and master of disguise, Malcolm Turner.
Meanwhile, a criminal named Lester Vesco, who was originally serving a life sentence in prison for murder and armed robbery, escapes from his cell by killing a doctor and stealing his car. The FBI assigns Malcolm and John to capture Lester by sending them to small-town Cartersville, Georgia to stake out the house of an overweight, elderly African American woman named Hattie Mae Pierce, whom her friends call "Big Momma". Pierce is the estranged Southern grandmother of Lester's ex-girlfriend, Sherry Pierce, a bank employee who supposedly aided Lester in his robbery by giving him the key to the vault. After Big Momma unexpectedly leaves town for two weeks to help an ill friend, Malcolm and John sneak into her house to plant security cameras and tap the phones. Sherry calls Big Momma's house and Malcolm disguises his voice as Big Momma in order to lure Sherry to the house and possibly obtain a confession. The plan works, and Malcolm and John work together on a Big Momma disguise costume before Sherry's arrival.
The next day, Sherry arrives at Big Momma's house with her 10-year-old son, Trent. However, "Big Momma's" behavior and sudden inexperience with cooking confuses Sherry. Malcolm also has to deal with Big Momma's lecherous boyfriend, Ben Rawley; act as midwife for a woman named Ritha, who has gone into labor; and attend self-defense classes under Ritha's older brother, a dim-witted security guard named Nolan, whom Malcolm handily defeats.
After Malcolm almost damages the suit while sleeping, he tries to sneak back to the safe house where he and John are staying. However, Sherry catches Malcolm on the porch and he poses as Big Momma's handyman. Malcolm and John repair the suit. When Malcolm leaves with Sherry, John searches Trent and Sherry's belongings for clues, but to no avail. As Big Momma, Malcolm bonds with Trent when he defends him against the two older boys who bullied Trent and kicked him off a basketball court so they could play. Malcolm and Trent eventually beat the boys at basketball, amazing Nolan and Trent. Malcolm also begins to bond with Sherry and Trent when he accompanies them on a fishing trip as himself. That night, Nolan discovers Malcolm and John's undercover operation and is reluctantly recruited to help them after he insists.
As Big Momma, Malcolm accompanies Sherry and Trent to church, where the Reverend calls on Malcolm to give his testimony. Malcolm attempts to influence Sherry and Trent by giving them his testimony about the importance of not keeping secrets. When they return to Big Momma's house, they discover a surprise birthday party for her. During the party, the real Big Momma returns home prematurely, whom John tries to stall. Malcolm, as Big Momma, accidentally finds the stolen money hidden in Trent's footlocker. Sherry tells Malcolm the real story: Lester had wooed Sherry so he could steal her keys to gain access to the bank vault; Sherry did not tell anyone about her stolen keys out of fear of getting fired. Lester arrives after tracking down Sherry, while Nolan accidentally locks Malcolm out of the house, believing he is the real Big Momma.
Malcolm breaks through the window and fights Lester, causing confusion among the partygoers as they see two Big Mommas at once. Lester shoots John in his right shoulder and rips Malcolm's mask during a fistfight, revealing his identity. Nonetheless, Malcolm subdues Lester. Sherry and Trent are heartbroken to realize that Malcolm was an FBI agent the whole time, and they refuse to speak to him. The police arrest Lester and paramedics take John to the hospital.
Malcolm goes to church on Sunday morning to testify Sherry, Trent, and Big Momma. Malcolm delivers his confession and heartfelt speech to Sherry and Trent, and admits that he genuinely loves them. Big Momma forgives Malcolm, and the crowd cheers as he and Sherry kiss. The crowd celebrates as Big Momma and the choir sings "Oh Happy Day".Martin Lawrence as Malcolm Turner/Big Momma
Nia Long as Sherry Pierce
Paul Giamatti as John Patterson, Malcolm's undercover partner.
Terrence Howard as Lester Vesco, Sherry's ex-boyfriend.
Anthony Anderson as Nolan, a dim-witted security guard.
Jascha Washington as Trent Pierce, Sherry's 10-year-old son.
Ella Mitchell as Hattie Mae Pierce (Big Momma), Sherry's long lost, overweight, elderly Southern grandmother.
Phyllis Applegate as Sadie, Big Momma's nosy and jealous neighbor
Starletta DuPois as Miss Patterson
Tichina Arnold as Ritha, Nolan's younger sister.
Octavia Spencer as Twila
Nicole Prescott as Lena
Cedric the Entertainer as the Reverend
Carl Wright as Ben Rawley, Big Momma's annoying, lecherous boyfriend.
Aldis Hodge as Basketball teen
Big Momma's House received generally negative reviews at the time of its release. It has a rating of 4.4/10 at Rotten Tomatoes, with 30% of 81 reviews being positive. The critical consensus was that "Big Momma's House is funny in some parts, but it is essentially a one-joke movie." Metacritic gives the film a score of 33% based on reviews from 27 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
The film, and the series as a whole, have been derided as typical of "representations of the big black woman that have appeared in mass marketed comedies" which at the same time devalue the women by casting "male actors wearing Latex fat suits". One review of the third film sarcastically comments, "Believe it or not, the Big Momma's House series rigidly follows the classic Hollywood trilogy structure". By the third film, the series was derided for its unnecessary rehashing of the cross-dressing gimmick.
The film was released on 2 June 2000, and was a surprise hit as it opened as the number two movie in North America, and almost overtook Mission: Impossible 2 for the top spot that weekend. Big Momma's House went on to gross over $117 million at the US box office, and with a worldwide total just under $174 million. Each installment in the series declined from the box office realized by the original:
A soundtrack containing hip hop music was released on May 30, 2000 by So So Def Records. The film's theme song was "Bounce with Me" by Lil Bow Wow. The soundtrack was also a moderate success and has been certified gold since its release. Other than Lil Bow Wow, the soundtrack featured artists such as Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat, and Black Dave, whose single Go Big Girl can be heard briefly in the film. It peaked at 41 on the Billboard 200 and 12 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and spawned two hit singles, "Bounce with Me" and "I've Got to Have It".
This was the only Big Momma film to have an official soundtrack. However, the third film spawned one single, "Imma Do It Big", by T-Pain, Brandon T. Jackson, and One Chance.
Big Momma's House spawned 2 sequels: Big Momma's House 2 (2006) and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (2011). Both sequels are notable for being lighter and family-friendlier than the original. The sequels included some, but not all, of the same crew members, characters, and actors from the original:
The film is one of very few titles to be released on EVD as well as DVD and VHS. The film was re-released on Blu-ray and DVD.