Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins & r & & r & by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here's nothing unique about the plot of Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Martin Lawrence's latest film, recently released on DVD: Young man (Lawrence's Roscoe Jenkins) leaves home to find his fortune; in the process he grows up; young man returns home years later (as star TV talk show host R.J. Stevens) to find that he has changed, but his hometown hasn't. Ultimately, of course, he rediscovers his hometown values. The story's been told many times. The challenge for writer/director Malcolm D. Lee was how to make the usual unusual. The result is a mixed bag.
This is a movie that's laugh-out-loud funny at times, thanks to an interesting group of secondary characters. There's Roscoe's gorgeous fianc & eacute; Bianca Kittles (Joy Bryant) -- a Survivor champion and wannabe star who repeatedly manipulates and emasculates him when he takes her home to meet his family. There's cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), a shady car dealer who has always competed with Roscoe for the affections of the family and especially of Roscoe's father (James Earl Jones). Roscoe's sister Betty (Mo'Nique) is the most flamboyant character, a loudmouth who has a thing for prison inmates. Even the horny dogs, especially Kittles' Pomeranian, get their share of (sometimes nervous) chuckles. The problem is that the secondary characters overshadow Roscoe; they're far more interesting. Lawrence wasn't a strong enough actor in this case to rise above them and grab back my attention. When it came time for me to root for Roscoe in his attempts to win back his family's affections, I didn't much care.
There were things I enjoyed: James Earl Jones' dominating presence as Roscoe's father and Margaret Avery's quiet strength as his mother. I enjoyed an early scene where Roscoe and his con-man cousin Reggie (Michael Epps) greeted each other with a hug, Reggie trying to pick Roscoe's pocket and Roscoe fighting him off. I enjoyed Mo'Nique's brazenness and the quiet strength of Michael Clarke Duncan -- whom I loved in The Green Mile -- as the sheriff.
Welcome Home shows us the dynamics of living in an extended black Southern family. It's hardly original, but it's at times entertaining and some viewers will enjoy it.