Directed and Written by: Malcolm D. Lee Has Malcolm D. Lee’s career come to this? Buffoonery disguised as family competition with single-leveled characters that deserve a better-written platform to shine?
Universal release Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins has its laughs and tightly bowed ending, but have Black family comedies really come to this?
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is full of comedians. There’s Monique as the angry and ruthlessly nosy big sister Betty, Mike Epps as the country-a** Cousin Reggie flaunting the out-of-place Caucasian piece, and finally there’s Cedric the Entertainer as Clyde, whose physical comedy is one of the highlights of this film. To see him and Martin Lawrence go at it down a flight of stairs, cracking a kitchen table and finally through an obstacle course is a climatic release.
The do-good dynamic is easy enough to follow: Roscoe Jenkins – now known as talk show host RJ Stevens – hasn’t seen his family in nine years. Amazingly, nothing much has changed when he returns to celebrate his parents (Jones Earl Jones and Margaret Avery) 50th anniversary, except that Roscoe’s new sadistic fiancé Bianca (Joy Bryant) is attached at his hip and his stern-faced son tags along.
Once they arrive in town, there’s a series of scenes with great one-liners and head-banging sibling connection. The way the Jenkins family show their love is with a shoot in the face. Everyone gets bruised, even the matriach of the clan. Roscoe and Bianca are an odd couple, flaunting their stardom and vegan righteousness in front of his Alabama clan of misfits.
Overall, the portrayal of the robust and aggressive household felt sterile and unauthentic. There are several kitchen scenes when a room full of women is seen, and only Betty and Bianca are heard. Who are all of these people, and what are they doing in the family’s kitchen?
If nothing else, a lot of Black people were hired during the filming of Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins –elderly actors, overtly heavy actors, funny actors, and most importantly, paid and recognized actors. This fact alone kept me in the seat awaiting the ultimate end. Because we want so desperately to bust a gut with Martin, Monique, Mike Epps and Cedric, we forget that each one has the acting chomps of our Black Hollywood elite.
They, and we, deserve better. It’s a shame when a good writer and director whose first film is a cherished The Best Man gets caught up in the process of bad filmmaking.
Please don’t waste your time with this one. Send a message loud and clear to the people who felt a strong desire to bring a movie like Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins to the big screen this month. If it’s come to this, at least we don’t have to.