Martin Lawrence can’t act. Every character he’s played has pretty much been the same thing, regardless of whether he’s an out of control cop, wearing a fat-suit, or coaching a basketball team. So how does someone who can’t act continue to maintain a movie career? By surrounding themselves with other people who can’t act. That’s the case for Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, the latest comedy to star Lawrence, although the lack of acting ability from the majority of the cast isn’t the least of its troubles.
The movie stars Lawrence as a Doctor Phil type celebrity who preaches his solution of “The Team of Me.” Roscoe Jenkins has quite the life, and the movie opens with him celebrating his new engagement to fictitious Survivor winner Bianca Kittles (Joy Bryant), who embodies Jenkins’ “Team of Me” attitude. To help keep the celebrity couple in the spotlight, they decide to return to Roscoe’s small town home to celebrate his parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, but when Roscoe gets home it turns out he’s not such a big winner after all, as old memories and a grudge from the past return in full force.
I’ve actually done Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins quite a favor with that description of the movie, because it sounds a hell of a lot cooler on paper than it actually is on the screen. We meet Jenkins in the middle of a celebration where we are told what a winner and star he is, although we never really see evidence of that other than fancy clothing and expensive habits. Since we never really see Jenkins as a winner, the contrast of him being a loser in his small town roots never really settles in, although it is reinforced time after time in the same way we know he’s a winner at the beginning of the movie – we are told about it endlessly. The story is bland enough that the movie feels like it should be starring Ice Cube and retitled Are We Home Yet?
Lawrence does absolutely nothing to distinguish this character from any other that he’s played in recent years, other than the fact that he’s not in a fat suit playing Big Momma. He’s egotistical and talks a big game, but never is able to back it up, much like his characters in Rebound or Black Knight. The result is a lot of time watching Roscoe getting himself into trouble, which leads to seeing Lawrence beaten up by various cast members, including (but not limited to) Michael Clarke Duncan, Cedric the Entertainer, and Mo’Nique. Since that can only take up so much time, other gags include (but aren’t limited to) farting, skunk spray, pushing around little kids, and mismatched sized dogs screwing – with the tiny female riding on top.
Since Lawrence can’t impress the audience with his acting, why should any of the supporting cast? Well, worry not – with cast members like Mo’Nique, Cedric the Entertainer, and Mike Epps nobody has to worry, as they all stick pretty closely to characters they’ve played before or typical stage personas for the movie. Of course, if you like that you might have a shot at enjoying them in this flick. Meanwhile, Bryant’s Survivor winner has two speeds: bitch and bitchier, which is probably pretty close to some of the show’s real life players, but wears thin through a two hour movie. Even Michael Clarke Duncan is unimpressive as Roscoe’s brother beyond his bulging biceps. The only real exception is James Earl Jones who brings a real honesty to Roscoe’s father. It supports the theory that Jones could bring anything to life, even the proverbial phone book, but one has to wonder how he got linked to this film. Surely he could have done a voice over or two for one of the many Star Wars franchise creations with Darth Vader.
Ultimately, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is a movie of flat, uninteresting characters portrayed by a flat, talentless cast in a boring story that spends more time explaining characterization to the audience than showing them. Sadly, it’s an appropriate addition to Lawrence’s legacy, which is to say that if you weren’t warned away from this based on his prior films, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. As for me, I hope Roscoe Jenkins enjoyed his trip home more than I did, and that he doesn’t come back.