Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Released- February 8, 2008
Reviewed- February 8, 2008
Rated- C+

The biggest roadblock in Malcolm D. Lee’s prodigal son comedy is, well, Malcolm D. Lee. What the usually-sharp director (The Best Man, Roll Bounce) begins as a decent laugher about talk show host R.J. Stevens (Martin Lawrence) reluctantly coming home for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration, still trips into the same slapstick-heavy silliness of Norbit. That didn’t have to be the case.

Truthfully, R.J.’s awkward-child-turned-big-time-star story was funny enough. He’s milking this black Dr. Phil thing to perfection. He’s got a smart, loving son and he’s engaged to a reality show stunner (Joy Bryant) that’s higher maintenance than the Biltmore Estate. Martin’s plenty talented to make it all gut-busting and ring halfway believable, too. So, when R.J. packs up the Louis Vuitton bags for his first weekend in Dry Springs in nine years, you’re ready for the trip, too.

Why the unwillingness to go home from RJ’s end? Three words: crazy ass family. If you had an oversized sheriff brother (Michael Clarke Duncan), a mess-startin’ cousin (Mo’Nique) and another hilarious relative who’d steal the thin mints out the Girl Scouts basket (Mike Epps), you’d probably be hesitant to uproot that side of the family tree yourself. But none of them are even R.J.’s biggest problem. That would be another character, the super-competitive Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), who also happens to be all hugged up at the picnic table with R.J.’s –Actually, in this neck of the woods, Stevens goes by “Roscoe”- longtime crush (Nicole Ari Parker).

With all of this potential hilariousness sitting at the script’s disposal, you’d think Lee would have enough to make for an hour and a half romp in the Georgia clay. But somehow the man who brought the world Undercover Brother cheapens the jokes with a damn skunk attack, sex-crazed dogs and a sophomoric fighting sequence between Mo’ and Martin that we all could’ve done just fine without. Though these are the only instances of letdown in an otherwise-pleasing family comedy, they are moments that simply come at the wrong times. Lee, don’t get us wrong. We’ll still recommend this visit down to the Jenkins’ place, but we do so with the promise that everyone’s on the first plane back to responsible filmmaking in the morning. -DW

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