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Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (2008)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/17/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/14/2008

Black and white thinkers will typically lump movies into two categories; good or bad. However, more open-minded folk will create sub-sets within those two grades. A "bad" movie is often easy to spot because it's one in which the viewer gets no pleasure. Whether it be a bad story or bad acting, there's something which definitely made the movie unpleasant. However, there can be something even worse than "bad" -- the missed opportunity movie. This is a film which has some good points, but eventually misses the mark, leaving the viewer frustrated. The Martin Lawrence vehicle Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.

Lawrence stars in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins as Dr. R.J. Stevens, the host of a successful Dr. Phil-like talk show. Stevens has made a name for himself with is "A Team of Me" self-help concept, and his fame has grown as he's become engaged to Survivor winner Bianca Kittles (Joy Bryant). When Stevens is invited back home to Georgia for his parent's 50th anniversary party, he's reluctant to attend, but his manager, Marty (Louis C.K.), convinces him that it would be good press. So, Stevens takes his son, Jamaal (Damani Roberts), and Bianca home to meet his family.

When they arrive in Georgia, we immediately learn that R.J.'s given name is Roscoe, and this is how his family addresses him. We meet his con-artist cousin Reggie (Mike Epps); his brother Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), who is the local sheriff; his outspoken sister, Betty (Mo'Nique); and his parents (James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery). Everyone is excited to meet Bianca, but they are quickly put off by her regal attitude. Roscoe is excited to learn that his childhood crush Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker) will be attending the party, but unfortunately, she's coming with Cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), with whom Roscoe has had an ongoing rivalry for years. What follows is an ordeal where Roscoe must attend to Bianca, try to be himself in front of his family, and keep from going crazy at the sight of Lucinda.

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is a movie with a lot of potential. Just look at the cast. Martin Lawrence can certainly be annoying at times, but he has great comic timing and has made some funny movies. The same can be said for Cedric the Entertainer. Michael Clarke Duncan showed a surprisingly funny side in Talladega Nights and it would be great to see him being funny. And James Earl Jones...are you kidding me...does it get any better than that? The film comes from writer/director Malcolm D. Lee, whose Undercover Brother is one of my favorite underrated films.

However, Lee clearly lost control of this film as it goes too far too often. I can't think of a film in recent memory which has the same problems which plague Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. To be honest, there are some funny moments in the movie, but each scene is on joke too long. The scene has reached its natural conclusion with a funny line or moment and then there will be one more line which is usually either not funny at all, or offensive in some way. The movie is like a stand-up comic or than annoying person at a party who can't read a crowd's energy and doesn't know when to stop. It's feels as Lee wanted to squeeze every joke possible out of the editing process and simply didn't know when to use the less is more theory. This results in a movie which seems to drag as we soon learn that each scene will be one beat too long.

The root of this problem become obvious when one takes a closer look at the film (or listens to the audio commentary). I'm not sure if Lee put too much trust into his actors, or simply lost control of them, but the movie devolves into a series of rambling ad-libs at times. Mo'Nique and Mike Epps mistakenly think that they are doing stand up routines and throw in line after line, apparently hoping that one will hit the mark. I assume that Lee was left with a vast amount of footage of Mo'Nique and Epps riffing away on some topic and decided that it should be included in the movie. We are left with scenes which come to a screeching halt as these actors take the film over as their own.

I don't think that Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins ever had the potential to be a great movie, but it could have been a good one, and thus, it's disappointing. I was even ready to overlook the fact that the movie bears an incredibly strong resemblance to the second half of Johnson Family Vacation, where Cedric the Entertainer played a role similar to the one that Lawrence plays here. Again, the movie has some funny moments and Lawrence is funny when he's playing the underdog. But, the movie is all over the map and never finds a consistent rhythm, thanks to the unsteady editing and overabundance of certain actors. Unless you're a die-hard Martin Lawrence fan, you won't want to welcome Roscoe Jenkins into your home.

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins proves Thomas Wolfe correct on DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one fullscreen and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here looks very good, as it's quite sharp and clear. The image shows basically no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, especially reds and greens. The image is well-balanced and is never too dark. I noted some mild artifacting at times, but overall it looks good. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the in-film music really fills the speakers. The obstacle-course scenes provides some very good surround sound effects.

The Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins DVD has a whole family of bonus features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Malcolm D. Lee. In this commentary, Lee confirms my suspicions about the film's production by discussing the way that Mo'Nique and Mike Epps elevated the material by doing a lot of ad-libbing. Also, it appears that it's a shame that we weren't there for the making of the movie, for Lee swears that every scene was hilarious on-set. The DVD features an "Alternate Opening" (3 minutes), which essentially shows an example of "The R.J. Stevens Show", and 19 DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES, which run about 22 minutes. These scenes don't really offer anything of interest, save for three more scenes featuring Louis C.K. There is also a 19-minute "Outtakes" reel. "Bringing the Family Together" (12 minutes) contains comments from the cast and crew, as they discuss the various roles in the film and how the actors approached them. "On Location: Getting Down and Dirty" (7 minutes) examines the shooting of the film in Shreveport, Louisiana, with a lot of on-set footage. "Going Home: Real Stories of the Cast" (6 minutes) has the actors sharing their own personal stories about their families. The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "We're Family" by Joe.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long