Mark Reviews Movies


½ Star (out of 4)

Director: Malcolm D. Lee

Cast: Martin Lawrence, James Earl Jones, Margaret Avery, Joy Bryant, Cedric the Entertainer, Nicole Ari Parker, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mike Epps, Mo'Nique

MPAA Rating:  (for crude and sexual content, language and some drug references)

Running Time: 1:54

Release Date: 2/8/08

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Review by Mark Dujsik

If someone finds the jokes that went missing from Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, please contact the studio or the filmmakers directly. The movie has what it supposes to be jokes in the form of brutal family violence, a bit of misogyny, and a scene of simulated dog porn. The last one earned the only laugh from me, but it was more out of embarrassment for the lack of actual humor than out of real amusement. Combining the discomfort factor of being trapped in a domestic squabble that's just about to get out of hand with the desperation factor of a comedy kicking into high gear at the drop of a hat, the experience of sitting through the movie is downright uncomfortable.

That the cast appears visibly bored is no surprise, and one can only hope they did something nice with their paycheck (I would recommend a compensation fund for people who have to see it). Their awkward attempts to force humor out of writer/director Malcolm D. Lee's jokeless script must have been almost as difficult a task as trying to blow up a balloon with a hole in it. As it turns out, the effort is equally as fruitless.

R.J. Stevens (Martin Lawrence, particularly bored) is a popular daytime TV talk show host, whose book and philosophy of the "Team of Me" has earned him a wide following. He has a ten-year-old son Jamaal (Damani Roberts), to whom he hardly pays attention, and a fiancée named Bianca (Joy Bryant), who's famous in her own right for being a contestant on "Survivor" and lives her life as though she's on a competitive reality TV show. The engagement is the talk of Hollywood.

Meanwhile at R.J.'s family home in Georgia, his parents (James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery) are preparing for their 50th wedding anniversary, and his father isn't impressed with the plasma TV R.J. sent them. He wants his son to come to the party at home, but R.J. hasn't been on the best of terms with his family. Bianca, though, sees a possible PR event: Bring a crew to film the anniversary banquet for the show. So R.J., who tries to tell his son that a man is in charge in a relationship, agrees with his fiancée, and the three head home, where lots of surprises are in store for them and little are for us.

R.J.'s family is an unpleasant bunch. There's cousin Reggie (Mike Epps), who, R.J. tells Bianca, could con Jesus (I suppose that's meant to say more (or less) about Reggie than Jesus) and is a lover of women to the point of a pervert. There's R.J.'s sister Betty (Mo'Nique), who's loud, obnoxious, violent and has a thing for her cousin (not Reggie, although he does "accidentally" peep on her in the shower). There's his brother Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), who has two obese children and likes to beat the crap out of his brother. Dad doesn't seem to like R.J. much, and even mom purposely calls her son's girlfriend "Blanca" out of some deep-seated spite.

Dad's affection has always been aimed at R.J.'s cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), who was taken in by the Jenkins family as a kid and has gone on to run a successful car dealership chain. Then again, neither R.J. nor Bianca is much better in comparison. Bianca is outright appalled that R.J.'s given name is Roscoe, not to mention her continuous scheming and attempts to gain attention no matter what's happening around her. Bianca, of course, is supposed to unappealing, but how can we think that when everyone surrounding her is just the same?

And what of R.J.? Well, he's a whiny, sniveling sort of man who acts like a little kid, whether it's trying to compete with Clyde for the affection of his dad or his high school crush Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker), whom he's yet to get over and whom Clyde has brought to the party just to continue his and R.J.'s feud. The whole thing comes to a head at the running of the family's traditional obstacle course, during which R.J. and Clyde knock down their cousins, nieces, and nephews and R.J. abandons his helpless son just to prove a point.

Up until then, Lee assaults us with setups with no punchlines and augments them with the continuing spitefulness of his characters. R.J. has a 25-year-old dog that knocks him over (and later violates Bianca's little dog in that weird scene I mentioned earlier). A skunk sprays him in the face while he's sleeping on the porch. He gets into fistfights with Otis, Clyde, and even Betty. There are probably jokes somewhere in this familiar mess, but Lee certainly doesn't know where they are.

The movie is irritating, awkward, and mean-spirited, especially in R.J.'s late shipping off of Bianca, Reggie's general nature, Betty, and, actually, the rest of the folks in the movie, too. Perhaps the most distasteful part of Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins comes in the finale, when, after all the muck, it tries to force a sappy, dishonest piece of schmaltz at the end. Ugh. Just ugh.

Copyright © 2008 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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