Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins
R1 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (1st July 2008).
The Film

Martin Lawrence plays "doctor" R.J. Stevens (nee Roscoe Jenkins), a successful television talk show host, a cross between Oprah Winfrey, Doctor Phil, and Jerry Springer. For the occasion of a family reunion, his family talks him into returning to the small Georgia town where he grew up. With his actress girlfriend (and "Survivor" (2000-Present) champion) Bianca (Joy Bryant) and his son Jamal (Damani Roberts; and no word on where mom is) in tow, he heads home. Upon arrival, the usual predictable situations occur as Roscoe Jenkins and prissy Bianca have difficulty fitting into country life after spending so much time in Los Angeles. Naturally, Bianca fails to ingratiate herself to Roscoe's extended family, and Roscoe eventually comes to realize the shallow and plastic way of the Los Angeles celebrity are not for him after all. Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker), the girl that Roscoe had failed to romance as young man, is still lurking around. Of course she is a pure hearted and kind country girl who shows Roscoe the error of his ways and brings him back down to Earth. Before this happens, we must first witness endless cattiness between Bianca and Lucinda, while Lucinda's significant other (Roscoe's car salesman cousin Clyde, played by Cedric the Entertainer) has to become enough of a pratt to make Lucinda want to ditch him.

Once the initial set up and exposition are over, the rivalry between Roscoe and Clyde is the focus of the film, as Roscoe tries to outdo the cousin who has always bested him throughout their lives. This story goes on for way longer than it needs to, in order to make a point that has already been made in fifty other "big city boy goes home to the country and is reminded of his roots and humanity" movies.

All of this said, Lawrence has just enough charisma to carry this film, but at nearly two hours in length, even his moderate screen presence begins to wear thin before this film is over. Supporting players include Roscoe's cousin Reggie (Mike Epps), his brother Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), his mother (Margaret Avery), his sister Ruthie (Liz Mikel), and some other assorted relatives.

They all basically run the gamut of black cinema character archetypes, with every possible expected cliche persona present and accounted for. Interestingly, director Malcolm D. Lee discusses in his commentary how he didn't want the mother character to be the stereotypical sassy and abrasive black momma; and true enough the mother is instead a kind and warm woman... as well as the most forgettable character in the film. Conversely, James Earl Jones brings some warmth to the film as Roscoe's father, and although his role isn't particularly large or complex, he easily blows the rest of the cast right off of the screen with a natural, understated, and professional performance.

Video

The film is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, enhanced for widescreen televisions. The color palette in this film is densely saturated. The colors really pop off of the screen. Edge enhancement is fairly rampant, but I didn't notice too much pixelation from overcompression, which is admirable given the longish running time plus over an hour of bonus features. Running time is 1:53:53, divided into 20 chapters.

Audio

"Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" is presented in either English or French Dolby Digital 5.1 language tracks. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish. Sound effects are fairly minimal, and the score consists of licensed 1980's pop songs and canned underscore from a music library. Given all of this, there is not much to listen for; this is a dialogue movie. That said, the voices come through just fine.

Extras

Universal Pictures has released this film with an audio commentary, 3 featurettes, a series of deleted and extended scenes, an alternate opening, outtakes, a music video and a series of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is an audio commentary with director Malcolm D. Lee. Lee is an enthusiastic speaker who provides a dense and non-stop commentary for the entire running time of the film. I suspect they'd had an extra cup of coffee the morning of the recording. Lee appears to have had a great time making the film, and has a lot of positive things to say about his actors. He gives a lot of insight into the themes and characters, and discusses how the film was tooled to keep the pacing tight.

"Bringing the Family Together" featurette runs for 12 minutes 18 seconds; This is a standard making-of featurette in which the director, cast, and crew discuss the importance of family and of making a family film, while goofing off on set.

"On Location: Getting Down and Dirty" featurette runs for 7 minutes 2 seconds; The director discusses the Shreveport, Lousiana location and the pros and cons of filming there as opposed to on a Hollywood back lot. It rained a lot.

"Going Home: Real Stories of the Cast" is the final featurette which runs for 5 minutes 38 seconds; Lawrence and the other actors remember the first time they returned to their home towns after moving to Hollywood.

Deleted and extended scenes runs for 22 minutes 10 seconds. These scenes are not individually accessible (as via a menu), and all run together as a montage. Most of it has to do with Roscoe's life in Los Angeles as a talk show host. As explained in the feature commentary, a lot of this material was cut in order to get Roscoe back home as quickly as possible. There are also some extended versions of scenes where the actors improv a little bit, most of which was trimmed in the final film. In another scene, Roscoe tries to get into a little bed with his girlfriend, but her dog makes it difficult.

There's an alternate opening that runs for 3 minutes 10 seconds; This version of the opening titles begins with a montage of scenes from the R. J. Stevens television show.

Next is an outtakes reel that runs for 18 minutes 44 seconds. A seemingly endless reel of bloopers and on-set gaffes. This might be the longest blooper reel ever. What is it saying about the skill and professionalism of the actors if there are this many mistakes - and these are just the 'funny' ones?

Also on this disc is "We're Family", a music video by Joe which runs for 4 minutes 10 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "Wanted" which runs for 37 seconds.
- "Monk" which runs for 40 seconds.
- "Psych" which runs for 58 seconds.
- "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" which runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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