WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS (*1/2) - Starring Martin Lawrence, Joy Bryant, Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Earl Jones, Mo'Nique, Margaret Avery, Nicole Ari Parker, Louis CK and Damani Roberts.
Written & directed by Malcolm D. Lee.
What a strange, broad comedy this is. I can't think of another movie where it's intended moral is the importance of family, but the family it displays is so obnoxious and unlikeable that the moral could easily be flipped to "Once every ten years is good enough."
One thing, among many things, that felt out of place, is how parents played by James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery could raise their kids to wind up being so rude and so biologically different. Martin Lawrence, Michael Clarke Duncan and Mo'Nique are siblings?
Lawrence is not his usual motor-mouthed jester self. Here he's the beat-down emasculated one. He's a successful Maury Povich-type talk-show host who hasn't been home to downhome Georgia for nine years. He takes his stick-thin girlfriend, who also won her season of Survivor, to be there for his parents' 50th anniversary. There he has sisters Mo'Nique berate and mock him constantly, grown cousins (Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps) berate and mock him, and the one nice brother punches him out when Roscoe lashes out at him. (Actually I'm not sure how Mike Epps fit in, but it provided an excuse to reunite the Honeymooners).
Let's go to that. Duncan punches Lawrence. Then in the next scene, Mo'Nique makes fun of him for the bump on his head. When he retorts, she beats the crap out of him. Why is this entertaining, beyond bloodlust from an audience that sat through Black Knight and National Security?
This is one talented cast where I'd like to see someone reign them in and play to their strengths, but most of the time they go bigger and bigger, waiting for that direction to pull back that never comes. And once we do get to the end, the moral of the story, it's unearned. Only by presenting Lawrence with a worse option, his Survivor girlfriend who reveals herself to be more shallow and selfish as the movie progresses, does he have his heart-strings tugged to give his family a chance. Hollow, forced, fake.