It's not that you can't go home again. It's that you shouldn't, at least not in a lowbrow Hollywood comedy, because your family will inevitably be lewd, crude, loud and obnoxious — overbearing ethnic and/or racial stereotypes waiting to exact revenge for your transgressions.
Roscoe Jenkins (Martin Lawrence) fled Dry Springs, Georgia, and his boisterous family for Hollywood, to reinvent himself as TV personality Dr. R.J. Stevens. Of course, he's too wrapped up leveraging "Team of Me"-brand self-help schtick to notice that he's well and truly whipped by his fiancee, stunning Survivor superstar Bianca Skittles (Joy Bryant), a shallow, selfish, materialistic, manipulative ball-breaking bitch so ruthlessly committed to winning at everything that she'd sell her mother to white slavers for victory at tiddley winks. And he can't spare much time for his winsome son, Jamaal (Damani Roberts), so he has to say yes when Jamaal asks if they can please, please attend Mama and Papa Jenkins' (Margaret Avary, James Earl Jones) four-day, 50th wedding anniversary and family reunion. And as soon as they arrive, he remembers why he's stayed away for nine years: Cousin Reggie (Mike Epps) the moocher. Sassy sister Betty (Mo' Nique), the obese, bible-thumping tramp. Muscle-bound brother Otis (Michael Clarke Duncan), who loves humiliating horseplay, and his supersized family. And most of all, sneaky, glad-handing car salesman Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), the orphaned cousin who usurped Roscoe's place in his father's eyes. Clyde also put the moves on Lucinda (Nicole Ari Parker), the high-school cutie Roscoe loved from afar, and she's coming as his guest. Stuck-up Bianca offends everyone and Roscoe feels like the world's biggest loser, just as he did growing up. Over the next few days, he's beaten up, blackmailed, mocked, stung by mosquitoes (OK, his family didn't do that), shamed at sports and games, eavesdropped on, whacked in the 'nads and teased mercilessly. What will it take to teach him that family is more important than money, fame or fancy-pants folks?
Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee wraps a soft and gooey message in a thick crust of crass slapstick, from gags about canine sex to saintly Mama Jenkins getting beaned by an errant softball and frankly, the center cannot hold. Avary and Jones are thoroughly out of place at the center of this high-decibel family circus, and even within the parameters of exaggerated comedy, there's simply no way Mama and Papa Jenkins raised this vulgar pack of fools. And in the end, if you don't believe, even a little, that Roscoe's relatives really do have their hearts in the right place, there's no point to either their braying or their sanctimonious lectures. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh