Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

Cast:
Martin Lawrence as Roscoe Jenkins
James Earl Jones as Papa Jenkins
Margaret Avery as Mamma Jenkins
Joy Bryant as Bianca Kittles
Cedric the Entertainer as Clyde
Nicole Ari Parker as Lucinda
Michael Clarke Duncan as Otis
Mike Epps as Reggie
Mo’Nique as Betty
Damani Roberts as Jamaal
Brooke Lyons as Amy

Review:
Dr. R.J. Stevens, a/k/a Roscoe Jenkins (Martin Lawrence), is the modern small town boy made good, which is to say he has his own syndicated talk show based off his personal philosophy of self-reliance, and on the verge of a high-profile semi-celebrity marriage with that other insta-celebrity of the modern age, a victory obsessed “Survivor” winner (Joy Bryant).

Naturally, under these circumstances all cannot be well in Mudville. Roscoe has practically obliterated all traces of his family and childhood in order to create a personality to match the philosophy he’s trying to sell, and when he finally agrees to return home to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, all the old resentments and conflicts he’s tried so hard to forget are getting ready to remind him that the past has a way of catching up to you.

It’s got its moments, but that’s really the best that can be said of “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.” It’s essentially the old story of family conflict and resolution, and “Roscoe Jenkins” isn’t interested in anything more than quick entertainment to bother trying to bring something new to that. Which is fine, if the film is entertaining enough, but “Roscoe Jenkins” isn’t. It tends to rely some very long-in-the-tooth situational humor about brotherly competition and family resentment mixed with the urban city sophisticate/rural down home culture clash. The jokes are about as canned as can be – starting with his clothes being ruined on the trip and his luggage lost, forcing him to where increasingly horrible hand me down clothes – and continuing on from there without ever much real thought or imagination being put into the story, the characters, or the comedy.

A film like that really depends on its cast to make it work or not, and “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” isn’t strong enough to be better than average. Martin Lawrence plays Martin Lawrence, but he does well enough and he manages to get a decent amount of mileage out of scenes with Mike Epps and Cedric the Entertainer, but Mo’Nique’s continuing trend of playing unbelievably obnoxious women who exist only to torment the main characters has exactly the effect it sounds like it should have.

The rest of the supporting cast is actually quite good despite the fact the characters are so sketchily drawn, particularly James Earl Jones as the family patriarch and Michael Clarke Duncan as older brother Otis, but that’s not really the same thing as being funny, and funny is what it takes, first and foremost, to make an engaging comedy.

Like a lot of Hollywood filler, especially comedies, “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins’” mandate seems to be to entertain and satisfy as many people as possible by sticking to a tested and proven formula, the result of which is it does neither particularly well. It’s okay for a handful chuckles, but ultimately it’s imminently forgettable.

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