Movie Review: Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

By Matthew Huntley

March 22, 2008

Why does a guy get razzed for driving through a bunch of shanties?!

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If you've seen Meet the Parents, Sweet Home Alabama or The Family Stone, then you've pretty much already seen Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, only slightly more superior forms of it. What's interesting is that each of the aforementioned movies was made this century, which makes me wonder if Hollywood is incapable of copying comedies that are more than a decade old. Our memories should at least be allowed to fade a little before studios recycle the same material.

Marin Lawrence stars as Doctor R.J. Stevens, a popular talk show host and self-help author, though the "doctor" part is just a stage name. R.J. is the talk of Hollywood after announcing his engagement to Bianca Kittles (Joy Bryant), a Paris Hilton wannabe and latest winner of Survivor, an honor that has inflated her ego.

R.J. also has a son named Jamaal (Damani Roberts), who loves soccer but doesn't much care for the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. That's why he keeps in close touch with R.J.'s parents (Margaret Avery and James Earl Jones), your typical salt of the earth grandparents living in Georgia. It's their 50th wedding anniversary and they invite R.J., a.k.a. Roscoe Jenkins, to join in the family festivities.

We get the usual assortment of eccentric family members, who all greet Roscoe with a subtle disdain because he left his roots in the South and ran off to Los Angeles. But seeing as though no one in his family ever showed him much support, can you blame him?


There's Roscoe's swindling cousin Reggie (Mike Epps); his big brother Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), once a promising football who now takes pride in simpler things like family, community and cooking; his obnoxious sister Betty (Mo'Nique), who's loud, outspoken and horny to the point of nausea; and his contentious cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), a Cadillac salesman. Years ago, Roscoe and Clyde made a bet that whoever won the Jenkins Family obstacle course would get to ask the local beauty, Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker), to the school dance. Clyde cheated, even though it was clear Roscoe and Lucinda belonged together.

Because you're already aware of Hollywood's age-old formulas, I wouldn't spoil anything by revealing Roscoe eventually learns the value of family; or that Bianca shows her true colors as a superficial brat who only cares about fame and fortune; or that Roscoe and Lucinda realize they still have feelings for each other. I also wouldn't be giving anything away if I told you about the tired slapstick humor this movie offers (odds are you've already seen examples in the trailer), like the old skunk spraying in the face gag; or Roscoe hitting his mom in the head with baseball; or a fight in the kitchen that spills food all over the place.

Such gags have been done to death, even in lowbrow sitcoms. Remember in Meet the Parents when the airline lost Ben Stiller's bags, and he was forced to wear clothes other than his own? Or the scene when Stiller spiked a volleyball in the pool and broke that poor woman's nose? All of those devices are re-used here, and to no avail. Coincidentally, Meet the Parents was a Universal movie and so is Roscoe Jenkins, which makes me wonder if the studio executives deliberately ripped themselves off to try and make a Meet the Parents with African Americans.

Simply put: there's nothing in Roscoe Jenkins that doesn't feel old, used or borrowed. Some of it's even uncomfortable to watch because the people are either yelling or being mean to each other, like the scene when Roscoe and Clyde re-run the obstacle course. For nearly five to seven minutes, the two men just scream, moan and push each other. Really, is this supposed to be funny?

And I may be getting a tad picky here, but I wonder if I was the only one who noticed the obstacle course takes place in the woods on a great big hill. Could the other family members at the top really see everything that was going on between Roscoe and Clyde? They certainly react to them as if they can, but I think they were too far away.

Director Malcolm D. Lee has proven he's a talented filmmaker before with the funny Undercover Brother, which lampooned blaxploitation films as well as black stereotypes. It showed Lee was capable of irreverent comedy that targeted formulas. Here, he embraces formulas and the result doesn't work. Roscoe Jenkins is long, loud and we know exactly where it's going before it gets there



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