Movie Review: Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

poster-roscoejenkins.jpgWhat the hell happened to Martin Lawrence? Wasn’t he one of the top comedians of his time? Didn’t he have a spectacularly popular television show?

I knew this guy was going downhill when Bad Boys II was released and although his name was first on the poster (probably a contractual item from when he was a bigger deal than a then-untested Will Smith), he was placed noticeably in the background.

This was in the midst of a string of bad movies, including National Security, Black Knight and Rebound. Could we really expect much from Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins?

The film follows a popular self-help talk-show host (Lawrence) who is engaged to the gorgeous yet high maintenance Bianca (Joy Bryant), whose biggest claim to fame was winning Survivor. When he has to return home for his parents’ wedding anniversary, he has to face his eccentric family that he has been avoiding for years.

If you’re having trouble picturing the film, imagine what would happen if Dr. Phil became engaged to Richard Hatch and took him home to his redneck family in Texas… only to have the film version star a veritable who’s who of black cinema. Yet, even with reputable actors like James Earl Jones in the film, the cast itself is wildly irritating.

Forget the fact that we can see up Martin Lawrence’s flaring nostrils throughout half the film, or the fact that we’re supposed to believe the dangerously chubby Cedric the Entertainer could beat Lawrence in a foot race. Other actors like Mike Epps and Mo’Nique vie for the most obnoxious supporting character role. Mo’Nique screams and wails through the film while Epps slurs his words like a drunken college student.

There’s a reason other black icons didn’t appear in this film, and it was probably not to sully their reputation. After Codename: The Cleaner, I doubt that Cedric the Entertainer is holding out for great scripts. But someone like Queen Latifah has more class than this film.

One of the biggest plagues on this film is a ridiculous feeling of been there, done that. And it’s well deserved, considering the film rips off scenes from other (and better films). I’ve seen the obstacle course challenge in everything from Meatballs to An Officer and a Gentleman. And while I love family dysfunction as much as the next guy, there are too many scenes stolen from movies like The Family Stone.

On the surface, there’s really nothing wrong with the concept of Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. Yet, the film disintegrates under the over-the-top attempts of the cast and crew. At no point is this mess funny. The actors try way too hard, and the jokes are uninspired. Slapstick antics are taken too far, and like last year’s The Heartbreak Kid, I think the filmmakers were trying to force grotesque scenes into quality comedy.

Sadly, if this film doesn’t kill your taste for Martin Lawrence, you’ll get him again next month when he stars in the sure-to-be-dreadful College Road Trip.

Grade: D

The Upside: Well… at least Joy Bryant looks hot.

The Downside: This will probably make $20 million on opening weekend.

On the Side: Louis C.K. lowered himself to be in this movie. Because of this, I say he almost deserves to have Dane Cook rip off his stand-up.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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