‘Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins’

Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” observation that all happy families resemble one another also holds true for all (allegedly) funny movie families.

That’s certainly the case in “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins,” which recycles so much material it’s a wonder the film stock didn’t turn green during filming.

More’s the pity, because it had the potential to be more than a broad, cartoonish romp.

Not that there’s anything wrong with broad, cartoonish romps — provided they embrace their cartoonishness and stick with it.

Alas, writer-director Malcolm D. Lee (yes, his cousin Spike also makes movies) doesn’t seem quite at home with the movie’s lowbrow hijinks.

Maybe it’s because he realizes there’s more to his story that the finished product would indicate.

Somewhere amid the in-your-face slapstick and creaky stereotypes, “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins” keeps tiptoeing around its real subject: how to make peace with your down-home past, and the family members still there, when you’ve moved on.

In the title character’s case, he’s moved onward — and upward.

Unlike some people, however, Roscoe Jenkins (Martin Lawrence) wants nothing to do with his past, or his past self.

After all, he’s built a new identity as fabulously successful talk show host R.J. Stevens, whose “Team of Me” philosophy has made him a household fixture. And his equally fabulous fiancee, ambitious reality-TV star Bianca Kittles (Joy Bryant), has big plans for their future as America’s favorite power couple.

But Roscoe’s son Jamaal (the adorable Damani Roberts) has other ideas — especially when an invitation arrives to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his grandparents (James Earl Jones, Margaret Avery) in down-home Dry Springs, Ga.

Once the trio arrives there, we understand Roscoe’s reluctance to return home. His wealth and fame do not impress his stern father. His strapping brother (Michael Clarke Duncan), his loudmouth sister (Mo’Nique) and his shifty cousin (Mike Epps) delight in humiliating him at every opportunity.

And that goes double for Roscoe’s childhood rival, Cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), who’s still plotting to outdo him, whether it’s a question of winning a foot race or winning the affections of their all-grown-up childhood crush (Nicole Ari Parker).

Clearly, “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins” has enough characters, and conflicts, for more than one movie. All too appropriately, Lee’s screenplay goes the multiple-personality route.

Every time the movie threatens to delve into the human condition — or explore the divide between Roscoe’s cocky TV persona and the doubts and fears he’s been wrestling since childhood — it comes to a dead halt for an in-your-face slapstick attack.

That is, until it’s time for the heart-tugging finale, in which all-is-forgiven-when-you’re-family platitudes replace raucous physical comedy.

Because Lee never figures out how to combine the slapstick and the sentiment, however, “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins” plays like a jalopy with a jerky transmission — in fits and starts, dragging when it should accelerate, grinding as it struggles to switch gears.

That’s especially frustrating when you recall how Lee’s 1999 debut, “The Best Man,” another reunion movie (this one among friends gathering for a wedding), smoothly combined comedy and drama. Or how his 2002 blaxploitation spoof, “Undercover Brother,” generated genuine comedic energy thanks to Eddie Griffin’s title-role performance.

As “Roscoe Jenkins’ ” title character, however, Martin Lawrence turns out to be the brunt of the movie’s comedy far more often than the instigator. As a result, Roscoe seems far less interesting than Cedric the Entertainer’s obnoxious blowhard, Mo’Nique’s obnoxious frustrated sexpot or Epps’ obnoxious schemer.

That is, until Roscoe just can’t take it anymore, reverting to the kind of childish behavior that reveals his own child as a wiser, more mature person than his baby of a father.

And while Duncan, Jones, Avery and Parker somehow maintain their dignity (most of it, anyway) while all about them are losing theirs, the scattershot script gives them little opportunity to counteract the craziness.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should report that most of my fellow audience members laughed their heads (or, more precisely, a different part of their anatomy) off while watching “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins.”

I’m happy they thought it was funny. I just wish I could say the same.

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0272.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like