Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

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Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
Review (4.5/10)
(By Ron Henriques)

Martin Lawrence's films haven't impressed me in quite some time. The last time he made me laugh was in "Bad Boys II" and that wasn't because of his rapport with Will Smith, but his reaction in a scene where he witnessed two rats getting it on. "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" has a similar scene with two dogs in the throes of passion and though it made me laugh hard too its not the only positive thing the picture has going for it. This story of a talk show host who returns to his roots is actually a surprising piece of entertainment, with Lawrence given support by a first-rate cast under the direction of "The Best Man" and "Roll Bounce" helmer Malcolm D. Lee, cousin of Spike.

As R.J. Stevens, Lawrence is a Dr. Phil type enjoying great success with a hit talk show, best selling self-help book and impending marriage. He's engaged to former "Survivor" contestant Joy Bryant whose idea of intimate time is dominating him in the bedroom. Though the two are a power couple in the media she knows little about him or the fact that he's basically turned his back on his family down South. Nor is she aware that Stevens, taken from his middle name is actually his stage name and amongst his family is known as Roscoe Jenkins. Lawrence has no interest in attending a reunion in honor of his parents anniversary, but a phone call from dad James Earl Jones, gets his young son excited and Bryant suggests they build an episode of his show around the event.

Going home is a happy time for many, but difficult for some as Lawrence struggles to get reacquainted with big brother and county sheriff Michael Clarke Duncan, obnoxious cousin Mike Epps and his overbearing, over-weight sister Monique who isn't hesitant to give him the occasional beating. Their mother Margaret Avery is more than happy to see him, but papa Jones is bitter that Lawrence has basically turned his back on them and hasn't even bothered to unwrap the flat-screen TV his son once sent as a gift.

Bryant struggles to fit in herself as a vegan and pampered Queen who can't even swallow a glass of Monique's sugary heavy lemonade which she dubs "instant diabetes". The family feeling pretty much the same about her, don't like her tiny dog and mistakenly call her "Blanca" or "Binaca" instead of her real name "Bianca". Just as Lawrence feels he's got a handle on dealing with his family, word gets to him that his cousin Cedric the Entertainer is expected at the reunion. Cedric was not only sent to live with the family when he lost his parents at an early age, but has been Lawrence's bitter rival ever since. Not only did Cedric beat Lawrence at everything they competed at, but he stole a childhood crush that he thought he had the right to ask to the prom after beating his cousin in a foot race. That childhood crush has grown into Nicole Ari Parker and when she arrives at the reunion on Cedric's arm, Lawrence feels old emotions stirring. Though Cedric considers her his woman, Parker informs Lawrence that she and his cousin aren't actually "together" and she's well aware that the successful car dealer is nothing more than a player. Seeing his chance to look good in her eyes, Lawrence's competitive drive shoots through the roof and soon he and Cedric are up to their old antics. Naturally their behavior will not only incite jealousy in Bryant, but ultimately ruin the reunion.

I was surprised by how much restraint there was in the comedy early on in this film. By the half way point the competitive antics between Lawrence and Cedric get rather ridiculous and almost ruin the story, but the film has a rather entertaining set-up and that's due in large part to the cast. Monique is known to be funny and her attitude towards Lawrence and his failures is no exception. There's also an interesting sidebar involving the fact that she has a crush on Cedric to which the family occasionally exclaim "But he's your cousin!" Duncan also manages to be quite funny and throws his physicality around in a humorous way. As for Mike Epps, he's his usual obnoxious self and although he's doing nothing more than his stand-up routine its all rather tame.

Cedric the Entertainer can get out of hand with his rivalry but that's balanced by the chemistry between Lawrence and Parker and the rediscovery between their characters. There's also a touching story beneath the surface that culminates in a scene where family tension explodes and childhood feelings revealed. I was pleased that Lawrence came out of this smelling like a rose and not looking like the Step'n Fetchit ass he's played many times before. As for that scene with the two dogs, I still laugh just thinking about it, but thankfully its one of many memorable moments in this picture.

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