One thing about Martin Lawrence is that he might not be one of the best comic minds going, but he certainly looks like a comic; with his big ears, big eyes and malleable face, he’s got the equipment. Some of the best bits in this new concert film come when he’s mugging, when he’s doing a drunk who grows dangerously confidential while his face is melting, or a baby whose gluttonous bliss at the tit is driving daddy up the wall. He knows how to sell a bit, which is a good thing because in all other respects the material is pretty thin.
Like Richard Pryor before him (don’t you love it when reviews of black comedians immediately reference other black comedians?), Lawrence is getting some comic mileage out of the chaos of his life, particularly the incident where he was busted for running around in traffic waving a gun and yelling incoherently. To his credit, he cops to being just plain stoned at the time, though I’m not buying the “bad weed” defense unless it was laced with PCP and he did at least a few lines before he toked. So it seems like a partial confession, which is better than none, and he’s brutally honest about his subsequent and degrading hospitalization, shitting himself like a baby, at first involuntarily and then with purpose when he learns that it’s a good way to summon the foxy nurse.
Some have said that Lawrence’s language is especially crude, extravagantly peppered with what used to be called “curse words,” but I would say not extravagantly (but, then, I take the bus a lot). He doesn’t seem particularly misogynist either, just self-absorbed like any good comic. He has a long bit about watching his wife give birth that moves easily from awe to disgust, and like so much here it seems kind of accurate without being especially funny. He’s a good storyteller, but I think his routines would better if he managed to squeeze in a few more jokes. Seriously.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.