You can imagine how many hands went up to review this movie when the invite arrived at Screenjabber Towers. Feeling guilty about passing the buck on a few other "must-see" releases recently, I found myself in the screening room on a sunny Friday afternoon. I suppose I had to pay my penance eventually. And yet although I can hardly recommend this forgettable Martin Lawrence "comedy", it’s not an absolute failure (especially given that this is the year of the unholy Meet The Spartans).
Roscoe Jenkins, aka RJ Stevens (Lawrence), is the TV host of a shallow talk show, which is a sizeable hit. He and his competitive girlfriend Bianca (Joy Bryant) travel reluctantly from LA with Jenkins’s son to the country farmhouse where RJ grew up for his parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. We are introduced to the larger-than-life Jenkins clan including big brother Otis (Duncun) and bigger sister Betty (Mo'Nique). Into the mix comes Roscoe’s childhood nemesis Clyde Stubb (Cedric) who brings along with him an old flame (Lucinda) for whom RJ still has feelings. As old rivalries come to the fore, the people around Roscoe begin to show their true colours and the clash of differing lifestyles is all too evident.
The story itself could have had a real dramatic edge, and on occasions this does come out (in between gross out scenes to hideous to relive). James Earl Jones can obviously deliver the goods in these "heavier" scenes, but it's amusing to see Lawrence try and fail at serious acting. The lead has always been a divisive performer, and this film is no different in representing an annoying, crass and unpleasant version of Martin Lawrence — how close to the truth this is remains open to debate, but I think I made my mind up a long time ago.
The only genuinely likeable character is Lucinda, played by Nicole Ari Parker. You have to wonder what she is doing with any of the characters in the Jenkins clan, and you’ll actually end up rooting for her and hoping she escapes from Roscoe. Epps, playing a useless cousin, personifies the thoroughly repugnant nature of some of the people we see on screen, enough to almost make you switch off. The film manages a few laughs along the way, and despite its lengthy runtime and predictable storyline, it passes by without too much trauma. Admittedly this is hardly a glowing review, but I had flashbacks to a plethora of one-star efforts from earlier in the year and decided I would gladly watch this again than any of those efforts.