Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins Review
Martin Lawrence has never managed to step out from the shadow of Will Smith after they both literally shot their way to movie fame in Bad Boys. While Smith has become a global superstar and featured in both crowd-pleasers such as Independence Day and I Am Legend along with more serious fare such as Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, Lawrence has never advanced from the generic comedy roles of an inept cop, an inept cop dressing up as a woman or a man struggling with his own ineptness. Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins follows the latter formula as a successful television host returns home for the first time in years trying to prove he’s no longer the awkward kid they once picked on only to find he’s lost his roots by selfishly pursuing his own goals.
Lawrence is not an actor with the greatest range, and his performance as Roscoe Jenkins is standard fare. Famed in the daytime TV world as a self-help guru and living a celebrity lifestyle which would enable him to have Beyonce play at his wedding to materialistic diva wife Bianca (Bryant), Roscoe is living to a motto of “Captain of Team Me”. But when his ten-year-old son convinces him to pay a visit to his family in Dry Springs for Mama (Avery) and Papa’s (Jones) anniversary, Roscoe must endure beatings from his portly sister (Roberts), embarrassing encounters with his high-school sweetheart (Mo’Nique) and petty rivalry from cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer) along with teasing from fellow family members Otis (Clarke Duncan) and Reggie (Epps). Lawrence uses his fish-out-of-water persona to extract laughs from the many practical jokes, family sporting activities and awkward social situations which normally result in him squirming away or shouting loudly for mercy. As ever, he’s the man who thinks he’s in control and likes to shout about it when in fact he has a few lessons to learn about loyalty, especially living by a “Team of Me” ethos and believing in his own ‘guru’ status.
Putting Roscoe in his place are a team of comedians who would perform better if they had not been stuck in such stereotypical roles by writer/director Malcolm D. Lee, cousin of Spike Lee. Cedric the Entertainer’s obnoxious cousin is given the job of being loud while Clarke Duncan and Epps are charged with being the bullies who point and laugh at Roscoe. Mo’Nique offers more laughs in her off-the-cuff moments on the end credits while James Earl Jones seems cast purely to say “my son” in his best Darth Vader voice. It’s all harmless enough in a lightweight, Fresh Prince of Bel Air style which brings us back round to comparing Lawrence with previous co-star Will Smith: he’s making movies in which a man gets sprayed by a skunk and involved in uninspiring family bickering over a game in the yard while Smith gets juicer parts to throw around his box office muscle. As such, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is standard Lawrence fare which surrounds him with black comic talent, then hands them the dull parts.
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