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With Jim Sabatini

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
Martin Lawrence, Cedric The Entertainer, Joy Bryant, Damani Roberts, Mike Epps,
Michael Clarke Duncan, Mo'Nique, James Earl Jones, Margaret Avery and Nicole Ari Parker

Rated: PG-13 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 8, 2008 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.

This new Martin Lawrence comedy as the title self-help TV guru crassly proves that you can go home. The interplay between the capable, appealing cast reminds one of elements of Lawrence's Big Momma's House, even Johnson Family Vacation, from which Cedric The Entertainer appears as a key supporting character, Clyde.

In Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Lawrence's RJ Stevens ambivalently returns to his Georgia hometown of Dry Springs, along with young son (Damani Roberts) and reality TV star fiancee Bianca (Joy Bryant).

Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee uses the issues that simmer within RJ from childhood even as he eagerly espouses his "Team of Me" doctrine to his plethora of fans. He has resentment towards cousin Clyde taken in by the family after the death of his parents. Seemingly preferred by his parents, Clyde even had the gall to get Lucinda, the girl RJ was smitten with.

The rest of the family that RJ isn't keen on reuniting with includes shifty cousin Reggie (Mike Epps), as well as imposing local sheriff cousin Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), and garrulous, religious-toting sister Betty (Mo'Nique).

Roscoe's pessimism seems to win out in coming back for his parent's 50th anniversary (James Earl Jones, Margaret Avery). Dad doesn't treat him with much respect, at least towards his career, and Otis and Betty have a way to hit more than a sensitive side. Even the likeable Reggie is more of a rascal than he appears.

Eventually, with Clyde as a car dealer welcomed by the family with the beauteous Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker), there's an obstacle course for Roscoe and his cousin, the former urged by Bianca and Clyde. What hangs in the balance isn't really Roscoe's unfortunate childhood recollections, but finding harmony with his dad and son, as well as the true love of his life.

Lee demonstrates with clarity that the hapless Roscoe ultimately made the right decision when put to the test by his crazy clan. The sentiment is mostly manufactured as the director knows how to emphasize family, but his handling of slapstick and humor isn't flattering towards the characters. How can they be thought of as more than caricature when the farce happening around them borders on stereotyping.

Most of the actors do a better job of posing for the camera, instead of defining a character, perhaps with the exception of the dignified Jones and Parker. Especially so, besides Lawrence and Cedric, are Epps and Mo'Nique who broadly fill their roles. The latter competition may surely be an obstacle for an audience, even the intended urban demographic. But, this decently produced, saccharine-laced product, seems to be preferred for its gratuitous side, with pratfalls and horseplay. None more evident than the whooping Betty puts on the Roscoe which isn't portrayed with the Midas touch of this sort of comedy of taking a look at what you've become.

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