Starring: Martin Lawrence, Cedric the Entertainer, James Earl Jones
Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee (“Roll Bounce”)
Written by: Malcolm D. Lee (“The Best Man”)

Pigeonholed into the same roles over the last few years, comedian Martin Lawrence is able to break away (a least a bit) from his usual shtick with some success in “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.” He still might be a smidgen on the goofy side, but at least he’s not playing a brainless cop again…and that’s always a good first step.

In the film, Lawrence is the title character Roscoe Jenkins, a popular Jerry Springer/Dr. Phil-type talk show host living in L.A. with his quasi-celebrity fiancée Bianca (Joy Bryant) and his young son Jamaal (Damani Roberts).

Roscoe, whose stage name is R.J. Stevens, is a busy man, so when his family, who he hasn’t visited in nine years, invites him home to Georgia to celebrate his parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, he can think of a million things he would rather do than revisit a place he left for a reason.

But when Roscoe finds out Damani has been keeping in contact with his grandfather on the phone and through letters for a couple of years, he realizes how important it is to his son to finally know the Jenkins family (and no, just because Lawrence is the star doesn’t mean there’s a cameo from Sheneneh Jenkins).

The cast of characters that makes up his dysfunctional and sometimes sweet family is wild enough to keep your attention on the comedy side without becoming too top-heavy in slapstick lunacy. Some of these characters deserving enough for mention are Roscoe’s big brother Otis (Michael Clark Duncan), a former linebacker whose found happiness as the sheriff of town he grew up; Reggie (Mike Epps), a leeching cousin, who hasn’t worked a day in his life but somehow always has money; and his other cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), who he’s always had a rivalry with since they were boys.

More realistic and less obtrusive than anything Tyler Perry has come out with since making it big with his first film in 2005 (although that, to me, is still a mystery), “Roscoe Jenkins” doesn’t take itself seriously and still manages to toss in a few morals-of-the-story without becoming overly enlightening.

You could seriously do a lot worse in this genre than this Lawrence-vehicle. Sure, it’s riddled with stereotypes, but there’s also some good-natured moments amidst all the feuding and sexual innuendo. Think of it as “Roscoe in Real Life” then suck it up, watch a few gags with a surprisingly amusing family, and be thankful Mo’Nique only has a small supporting role.

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