The lack of vanity Martin Lawrence brings to Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is unlikely to get much notice, yet it deserves comment. Rather than 
assuming the headlining spot implied by his title role, Lawrence unassumingly fits into the comic dynamic of an ensemble cast.

Hitting the big time as a Hollywood talk show host, Roscoe begrudgingly returns to his Georgia home for a family reunion. They don’t know what to make of his gold-digging Survivor star fiance (Joy Bryant). And he’s embarrassed by their countrified anti-veganism.

A lot of this is told in over-the-top slapstick (an indulgence that slows the movie down on occasion), but the film’s clash of broad personalities carries on a legitimate stage-comedy tradition. One could imagine the zeal Eddie Murphy would take in playing every member of the Jenkins family---but that would deny us the charm of the cast writer and director Malcolm D. Lee assembles---James Earl Jones, Mo’Nique, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mike Epps, Margaret Avery and Cedric the Entertainer.

Lee doesn’t match the big-scale visuals of his adolescent epic Roll Bounce. But his bold greens and reds capture Southern life with a familial glow.

Roscoe always felt unappreciated by his hefty relatives, and like all outsider kids, he quickly had to learn independence. His trip home becomes about understanding the world he rejected. That sounds trite, but in looking beyond “family values” to find the universal need of having some kind of family, it also speaks truth.

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