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Predictable ‘Roscoe Jenkins’ is mean spirited

The Martin Lawrence family reunion comedy is just as awash in silly caricatures as his earlier "Big Momma's House."
/ Source: The Associated Press

No one dons a “Big Momma’s House” fat suit in “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins,” yet the Martin Lawrence family reunion comedy is just as awash in silly caricatures as his earlier Deep South franchise.

Virtually everyone’s a cartoon figure here, from Lawrence’s flashy TV talk show host to Cedric the Entertainer’s win-at-any-cost player to Joy Bryant’s fake celebrity of “Survivor” lineage.

The comedy’s not as broad as in Lawrence’s “Big Momma’s House” movies, but it’s close, and nearly as gross in its physical humor and innuendo.

As elders whose clan gathers at the Georgia homestead for their 50th anniversary, James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery add some heft to writer-director Malcolm D. Lee’s collection of bad sight gags and schmaltzy sentiment. Even Jones and Avery, though, often come across as stereotypes of the impossibly stern dad and the infinitely forgiving mom.

A perpetual loser in his youth, Lawrence’s Roscoe Jenkins fled Georgia to escape his unappreciative, unsupportive family, led by his cruelly disapproving father (Jones).

Now Roscoe has remade himself as RJ Stevens, a best-selling author and TV personality whose renown is built on a shallow philosophy he calls “The Team of Me.” He’s found the perfect partner for that me-first lifestyle in fiance Bianca Kittles (Bryant), a ruthless “Survivor” winner who talks opportunistically of their engagement as an “alliance.”

Roscoe reluctantly heads home for his parents’ anniversary bash, bringing along Bianca and his 10-year-old son, Jamaal (Damani Roberts).

What follows is a succession of superficial encounters with his parents and a stream of distasteful, sometimes mean-spirited slapstick with monumental brother Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), sister Betty (Mo’Nique), and cousins Reggie (Mike Epps) and Clyde (Cedric), who bested Roscoe at almost everything when they were young.

When they’re not beating the stuffing out of one another, the members of this family keep busy crudely mocking their relations and tossing about lewd sexual suggestions.

Roscoe and Clyde pick up where they left off, competing over everything, including the affections of Roscoe’s old school crush, Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker).

The movie is as predictable as they come. You can see where this one will end up before Roscoe even leaves his home base in Hollywood. Most of the cast is harmlessly annoying, with Epps’ patter coming so fast it occasionally sparks a chuckle and Duncan demonstrating comic charm at odds with his imposing physique.

Lawrence at times veers into his lowest mode, emitting nonsense syllables or whining shrilly through apoplectic facial expressions.

From the moment she appears, Mo’Nique is nails-on-chalkboard grating. Maybe she’s there to temper her less-offensive castmates, making them more likable by comparison.

Truth be told, though, everyone and everything about “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” is pretty unlikable.