Eye For Film >> Movies >> Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (2008) Film Review
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is a star vehicle for Martin Lawrence. If you've seen his other films, like Big Momma's House, you'll have a pretty good idea what to expect. Here he's a talk show host with a glamorous new celebrity fiancee, Bianca, and a bright future ahead of him - until, that is, his young son persuades him that they should all go down south for a few days to attend Roscoe's parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Everything rapidly goes south from here.
Roscoe's family consists of a collection of hick stereotypes - the flirtatious overweight sister, the cheapskate cousin who's always trying to scam people; the men obsessed with barbecues and the women obsessed with the men. There's also Roscoe's cousin Clyde, who rivaled him for his father's love, and there's the childhood sweetheart, a former homecoming queen, whom they fought over. Bianca tries gamely to fit in with these people but is clearly out of her depth. Roscoe doesn't try at all but still manages to look down on her for her failures. Responding to social awkwardness by shouting his mouth off and insulting people, he gets beaten up a lot.
It is here that the film becomes rather uncomfortable viewing. Its crude slapstick comedy and cheese counter morality seem to be aimed squarely at kids, but do we really want them laughing along at the message that supposedly well-adjusted people respond to insults with persistent physical violence? Opportunities to present this more clearly as silliness - for example, by having people fall in nearby water - are curiously missed, and instead we see prolonged scenes of beatings. We can also clearly see the psychological damage which this has done to Roscoe over the years - and yet the film tries to tell us that he's the one who ought to change his behaviour, to see the funny side of the beatings.
Sitting alongside this is a heavy helping of misogyny, whereby any woman who enjoys sex is seen as, at best, a bit of a joke, at worst a monster. The childhood sweetheart who once again catches Roscoe's eye is demure in the extreme, having no apparent objection to the way she's objectified and simply waiting around for her fate to be decided. She does seem well suited to him, though, given that he is by far the least charismatic person in the film. There is some salacious entertainment to be had in watching his OTT relatives squabbling and shouting, but Lawrence just stands there, showing about as much emotional range as a Cabbage Patch doll. He's not so much a leading man as a leaden one.
Thankfully, the film is structured around ensemble performances, so Lawrence's dullness can only damage it so much. The trouble is, there's really nothing else here to save it. James Earl Jones, sleepwalking through his turn as Lawrence's father, should be ashamed to be associated with this. The only person who comes out of it with any dignity is seasoned 12-year-old TV actor Damani Roberts as Roscoe's neglected son Jamaal.
There are many more tedious, more obvious, and more offensive films out there than Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, but that's still no reason to waste your time watching it.Reviewed on: 21 May 2008