Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins stars: Martin Lawrence, MoNique, Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Michael Clarke Duncan Universal. Comedy. Written & directed by Malcolm D. Lee. It is rated PG-13.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Martin Lawrence is talk-show sensation RJ Stevens, who left behind his modest Southern upbringing and family name to transform into a self-help guru dispensing his Team of Me philosophy to millions of adoring fans. After his parents request that he come home for their 50th wedding anniversary, the TV host packs up his 10-year-old son and diva bride-to-be and heads back to Georgia. Its a chance to prove to his family that hes no longer the awkward kid they relentlessly picked on. At least, thats the plan
Dear Reader, I cant honestly review this film, for truth be told, I walked out after twenty minutes. It would be unfair to the filmmakers, the publicists and you to say yea or nay. After all, the writing, the acting, and the humor could have kicked in once I left. Its possible. But if youll allow me to vent a bit, Ill explain my early departure.
Having arrived way early, I decided to kill time by slipping into a matinee of a film not screened for critics (the management allows this a perk of the job). The R-rated Strange Wilderness, a sophomoric comedy having something to do with an inept host of a wilderness TV show trying to rise above his ineptness. After less than ten minutes I realized a porno movie would be more edifying, so I left. I still cant believe that filmmakers or filmgoers would find such irreverence and comic barbarism to be anything resembling entertainment. I can only surmise that if the culture continues in this vein, the next generation will wind up living in caves, struggling to make fire.
I admit that because of my Strange Wilderness diversion, I entered Welcome Home R.J. not in the best of spirits. But Im a professional film critic. I heal quickly from snake bite. It didnt take long, however, to realize that I was in for another bashing of my sensibilities. This one looked to be a dumbed-down version of Dan In Real Life, sans the charm and humor. But as I say, Im not reviewing it. Youll have to seek the views of other movie reporters to confirm my prognosis.
I didnt leave because I assumed it was going to be a bad movie. As we all know, we must not assume. For to assume only makes an ass out of u and me. My early departure was prompted not by the film, but by the attending audience. As with many press screenings, people get free tickets from radio stations to come to see these movies. Usually the crowds are a great group. I almost always arrive early to talk to many of them who have become good acquaintances. But tonights crowd was a bit more-- how should I put this?-- aggressive. Some looked daggers at me for sitting in a sectioned-off row. It didnt help that all my colleagues decided to stay home, leaving me alone to face the questioning look of unhappy seat seekers. Rebellion quickly ensued. The reserved seat covers were ripped away with a defiance that resembled the fervor of those wishing to occupy Israel.
I maintained my composure, reminding myself that my chosen vocation beats working. Then they came the large couple with the manners of Homer Simpson. He, maybe six foot three, she, only inches shorter. I thought I recognized them, but paid little attention as they bumped me while passing, offering little excuse or apology. No prob. Some people just dont think to say excuse me. Doesnt mean theyre bad. Doesnt mean theyre stupid. Necessarily.
They took their seats, but only long enough to claim squatters rights. The inevitable trip to the concessions stand resulted in another impolite swipe at my knees. Minutes later they returned, larger-than-bladder-sized Cokes and buckets of feed in hand. The rest of the waiting time, they remained silent. This silence, as I would soon learn, was misleading. For twenty minutes they sat there without much animation and certainly without any discernable dialogue between them. Then the credits began, and so did they.
It takes a while for some people to calm down before the hypnotic trance of moving pictures lulls them into complicity. I understand this. Indeed, I, myself, have been guilty of speaking during the opening credits. But when the credits ended, they did not. As if they were in their living room, the conversation continued, interrupted only by two phone calls. We in the surrounding aisles were alerted to the presence of cell phones by the bright blue light and the tinny version of The Colonel Bogey March.
Now, you may ask why I didnt whisper a polite but authoritative request to stop talking. Well, thats because I suddenly recognized my verbose co-viewers. I remembered my last encounter with this troublesome twosome. Have you ever chastised a 63 man for talking in a movie theater? That never works out well for me. And because my fellow moviegoers seem to lack the same zeal for justice, I usually find myself alone in what abruptly becomes the battle of Midway. Right or wrong, my decision to leave the packed theater was predicated on the fact that I did not wish to be bruised and bloodied over a movie starring Martin Lawrence.
All you armchair movie-going quarterbacks who would have handled the situation differently, may God bless each and every one of you and keep you in the hollow of His hand. I am convinced of my manhood due to the fact that Ive defended bullied underdogs, interceded when alcohol-fueled jocks decided to strong-arm ex-girlfriends, and declared my political conservatism while interviewing Susan Sarandon (dont tell me about courage). But since there is no effective way of asking King Kong to get down from the Empire State Building without military backup, I decided to live and fight another day.
If other reviewers declare Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins to be the stinker I predict it will be, then allow me suggest the following DVD alternatives:
Bill Cosby Himself. Bills insights on marriage and children highlight this very funny stand-up (and sometimes sit down) routine. But perhaps the funniest bit is his take on a trip to the dentist. I rank this routine right up there with Abbott & Costellos Whos On First.
Cheaper by the Dozen. No, not the Steve Martin one. Go to a land beyond a world seen in black and white and populated by movie stars who now dwell amid the constellation. Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy raise a whole bunch of kids with humor and heart.
Down In The Delta. A Christian mother sends her substance-abusing daughter to relatives down South. There, she learns about responsibility and the importance of family. Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman, Jr., Wesley Snipes, Loretta Devine.