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Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
3 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Malcolm D. Lee

Written By:
Malcolm D. Lee

Michael Clarke Duncan, Martin Lawrence, James Earl Jones, Mike Epps, Nicole Ari Parker, Cedric the Entertainer, Mo'Nique, Louis C.K., Erin Cummings, Gus Hoffman, Ted Ferguson, Ted Manson, Chuck Vail, Samantha Smith, Breon Pugh, Eric Kelly McFarland, Daryl Walters, Darcel White Moreno, Joy Bryant, Michael Pupillo, Brandin Jenkins, Affion Crockett, Odessa Sykes, Ara Grigsby, Werner Richmond, Colvin Roberson, Brooke Lyons, Robin McGee, Liz Mikel, Damani Roberts, Angie Fox, Reginald Davis Jr., De Etta Little, Taylor Polidore, Randy Graves, Harry Grissom, Quigly

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (2008)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
February 11th, 2008

Martin Lawrence is a lot like Eddie Murphy in the way he has ruined his own career with a series of very bad movies, and made people forget that at one point, he was an incredibly talented and edgy stand-up comic, able to sell out stadiums all over the country. Murphy was one of the best things about the early seasons of Saturday Night Live, and starred in hit after hit, creating memorable characters like Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop and Reggie Hammond in 48 Hrs. Trading Places and Coming to America were extremely funny, so too was his concert film Raw, which painted him as a potential successor to Richard Pryor and an inspiration to future generations of black comedians, especially Chris Rock and D.L. Hughley. But then Murphy had a nearly unparalleled string of abysmal failures, which sometimes found alarming commercial success (I am talking hundreds of millions in box office earnings) despite their low quality. The possible exceptions may have been Mulan and Shrek, where he supplied voice work, and the endearing remake of Jerry Lewis's Nutty Professor. Then there's Doctor Dolittle, Holy Man, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Haunted Mansion, and then a surprising, Oscar-nominated dramatic turn in Dreamgirls, for which he was deservedly praised.

Lawrence has followed a similar trajectory; he had a part in Spike Lee's monumental Do the Right Thing, then a TV show, and then the blockbuster Bad Boys with Will Smith. Following those projects were Blue Streak, Black Knight, National Security, What's the Worst That Could Happen, Rebound, Big Momma's House, and Wild Hogs. All of those are dreadful, though Momma is not without her charms. I don't think Lawrence has neglected stand-up to the degree Murphy has, so he has that to fall back on I guess, but both men have, as I have illustrated, made a lot of terrible acting choices. 'Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins' is better than most of Lawrence's previous features, but it still fails to rise above mediocrity, and is saved largely by the presence of James Earl Jones, Joy Bryant, and Margaret Avery, who are all more engaging than Lawrence, though it is he who undoubtedly gets top billing, as if that is something that will motivate people to see this. Lawrence plays the title character, a popular talk shot host in LA who decides to visit his hometown in Georgia after nine years, to celebrate his parents' (Jones, Avery) 50th wedding anniversary.

With him are his son Jamaal (Damani Roberts) and fiancee Bianca (Bryant), a Survivor winner, who is superficial, self-involved, and materialistic. He is reunited not only with his parents, but his brother Otis (Duncan), sister Betty (Mo'Nique) and cousins Reggie (Mike Epps) and Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer). Roscoe and Clyde particularly don't like each other, but none of Roscoe's relatives really seem happy to see him, except his Ma. His dad takes every opportunity to lambast his job and lifestyle. One gets the distinct impression that Mr. Jenkins has never approved of his son, and that he is indeed a difficult man to please, and a harder one to live with, which is perhaps why Roscoe chose to move so far away. The relationship between Roscoe and his father, or more specifically their past relationship, is never given much attention, but much can be implied, and it occasionally threatens to drift into darker territory than the film wishes to go, or else it could not maintain its image as a comedy. And yes, there are some funny bits here. Mo'Nique is a scene-stealer, with a wealth of energy and a great sense of timing. Bryant and Epps are also amusing in different ways, and Jones provides the kind of authoritative presence that simply commands the audience's attention if ever it starts to drift.

Roscoe gets to confront his old crush, Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker), and finds that he still has feelings for her (which are more or less reciprocated), and this makes Bianca jealous, though Lucinda would make for a much better companion than she. There are elements of slapstick, not to mention crude language and sexual gags, and it is this material that pushes the movie to the limits of its PG-13 rating. There is not a lot of consistency here (except for the laughs generated from the continuous mispronunciations of Bianca's name by the Jenkins clan), scenes without Mo'Nique tend to be much less enjoyable, and Clyde is obnoxious, certainly the worst character of the bunch, but also the most underwritten. Roscoe himself is also not that likable. It is, if anything, a pleasant weekend diversion.

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