Friday, February 08, 2008

"Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" -- 1/2*

If you're black and love being pandered to, then "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" is the movie for you this weekend. Blatantly targeted at non-discerning African-American audiences, "Roscoe" is the epitome of racism, operating on the assumption that black people are stupid, and insulting its audience at every turn. There's no chance anyone involved here thought they were maiking a good movie; this was surely strictly an intended money-maker from day one. It's not only dumb and unoriginal, it's also alarmingly mean-spirited and plotless. Not once did I laugh or smile, nor did I even think about laughing or smiling. You've heard literally every joke here before, and probably from an elementary school student. At a time when it seems highly likely that we might soon have our first black president, our country really doesn't need movies like "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" adding fuel to the fire of ignorant Americans.

We start off being introduced to Martin Lawrence as successful TV host, Dr. "RJ" Stevens, who's sort of a combination of Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer. Now engaged to raging cunt Bianca (Joy Bryant) and stayed away from home for years, RJ decides to head home for a weekend celebration of his parents' (James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery) 50th anniversary. Roscoe is a rich, arrogant dick and his loud, crass family is keepin' it real. That's about it for "story." The tone-deaf direction by Malcolm D. Lee can't hide the fact that there's no plot here, and nothing's really going on. The movie is mostly a series of slapdash set-pieces of things no one would every do; about 80% of the film is Roscoe saying something mean to his family members and them beating the shit out of him. Almost all the jokes are fight/beating-related and it gets real old real fast.

The timing/editing seems to be off with every gag, beginning with an awful early sequence of Roscoe speaking in foreign tongues/gibberish during an aggressive sex session. It's indicative of the movie's problems that it completely squanders literally the only thing it has going for it; the hilarious Louis C.K. shows up during the opening as RJ's bluetooth-equipped agent, but he's on screen less than 30 seconds and gets nary a funny line. About the most clever joke on display here is when we witness Roscoe and Bianca's dog wearing matching sunglasses with them. I'm not kidding; that's the joke that involves the most amount of thinking/intellect from audience members. Don't believe me? Here's some jokes "Roscoe" offers; let me know if they sound like they'd make you laugh. *SPOILER ALERT!*

- Roscoe wears an all-white outfit onto the plane and orders a glass of wine. He spills it all over himself.
- After staining his ensemble, he must wear an embarrassing pair of plaid golf pants.
- A big dog and a little dog have sex repeatedly.
- A skunk sneaks into the house and crawls into Roscoe's bed. He screams "Oh dayum!" and it sprays him in the face.
-During a softball game, Roscoe hits his mother in the head with the ball.
-During an extended kitchen-set fight sequence, everyone int he family gets splattered with food.

Martin has never really made a good movie, so I doubt many had high expectations for this one (himself included). That said, he's more irritating than usual here, with a higher dose of his trademark arrogance, but no one really fares well in this large cast. Cedric the Entertainer plays his usual mush-mouthed swagger as cousin/car-dealer Clyde, infusing the character with stupid random quirks to compensate for the script's inanity (he makes his entrance by slow-motion dancing out of his car, the way nobody does).

The often-funny Mo'Nique is mostly just mocked for being fat here, and she rambles on with "comic" rants that seem to go on forever. Mike Epps is his typical annoying stereotype-bolstering self, while the usually classy James Earl Jones' dad character only exists to keep saying shit like "Remember son, family is important" in the movie's frequent moments of forced sentiment. Michael Clarke Duncan is the only ensemble member who saves face by simply not making a strong impression. It's fine that he's made the transition from Oscar nominee to low-brow comic actor, but he should know better to stick with Will Ferrell rather than Martin Lawrence.

I'm glad there are movies out there targeting predominantly black audiences; we all need our communal movie-going experiences. Say what you will about Tyler Perry-- and I've said a lot-- but at least he has a sense of comedic timing and treats his characters (and occasionally, his audiences) with respect. "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" is so unbearably familiar, pandering and insulting that everyone within its target audience should be offended. About 87 minutes in, Mamma Jenkins says "This is just a mess." Amen, Mamma, Amen.


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