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By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Throw a bunch of humorous comedians together, add a decent plot, sprinkle in a couple of gifted dramatic actors and the result is a genial comedy with a zingy energy that’s worth rooting for.
Martin Lawrence plays Roscoe Jenkins, a self help guru who has left his modest Southern upbringing to transform himself into a successful star with his own television talk show. Arrogant, self centered and indifferent he returns home after a nine year absence to attend his parents 50th wedding anniversary and is forced to reexamine his life and values when confronted by his eclectic family.
With a collection of some of the most accomplished and beloved black entertainers, each family member has a unique personality carefully blended together to create the appearance of a perfectly dysfunctional but loving family.
Mo’Nique plays his sassy and sexually charged sister Betty, whilst Michael Clarke Duncan in a role that clearly displays his comedic chops plays his older brother Otis. Mike Epps is Reggie, the money-hungry and salacious cousin and rounding out the cast of comedians is actor Louis C.K. as Roscoe’s slick talent agent and Cedric the Entertainer as the competitive cousin and lifelong nemesis. James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery play Roscoe’s firm, but lovable parents and inject a dramatic touch into this hilarious ensemble.
Written and directed by Malcolm D. Lee (“The Best Man”) “Welcome Home” is consistently good-natured and is crammed with side splitting humor as one would expect with five comedians holding court. It's breezily entertaining and culturally specific without resorting to gross-out jokes or cruelty. Mo’Nique and Epps garner the most laughs with their quick witted improvised exchanges. Both unleash their natural wit with scores of one-liners and Lee claims he specifically wrote the character Betty with the actress in mind. “Mo’Nique is so funny and has no inhibitions whatsoever. When you’re looking to cast a role as outrageous as Betty she’s the perfect fit,” he says.
Lee’s intention to portray the importance of a family unit is greatly achieved for he sorts out the characters admirably whilst depending on typecasting to help establish them more quickly. The camaraderie also enjoyed by the actors on set clearly comes across on screen with Roscoe’s perceived family problems reminiscent of many others.
An entertaining concoction, “Welcome Home” joins the recent slate of movies about families coming together and successfully matches and mismatches affections and rivalries with relentless energy and a nice dose of good-natured humor.
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