Riding a hit Fox sitcom and regular HBO host role, Martin Lawrence is a very hot property right now, and this energetic concert film should cash in on his loyal if somewhat limited following. Using language so bawdy as to make a Friars roast look like a church sermon, Lawrence doesn’t figure to expand his appeal here, but the existing “Martinized” audience should be enough to make this pic “go” for Miramax.
Lawrence is clearly trying to follow in the footsteps of Eddie Murphy and particularly Richard Pryor through this standup vehicle, while HBO (which also produces his sitcom) provides itself with a savvy marketing tie-in as it seeks to elevate the comic to that level.
Like Murphy, with whom he co-starred in “Boomerang,” Lawrence is perhaps a less gifted standup comic than he is a comic actor, playing multiple characters as he paces and occasionally sprints around the stage.
As a result, the material — from an opening routine about racism (a particularly funny moment has Lawrence likening Rodney King to Kunta Kinte of “Roots”) to extensive talk about sex and differences between the sexes — isn’t as strong as the manner in which Lawrence presents it, seamlessly shifting from being the smooth nightclub operator to the “crazy, deranged” boyfriend that operator becomes a few months later.
Punctuating practically each sentence with the same four- and 12-letter words , Lawrence certainly works as dirty as Pryor, but lacks the observational skills Pryor possessed in his heyday, relying too heavily on blue material to prop up his act.
That may delight easily impressed teenagers, but it inhibits Lawrence from expanding his reach, though, as noted, his talents seem well-suited to moving up to headline a scripted comedy vehicle.
Director Thomas Schlamme, a veteran of numerous comedy specials, does a fine job in giving the moviegoing audience the best seat in the house, making particularly deft use of editing techniques when Lawrence plays more than one character.
Pic was shot at the Majestic Theatre in Brooklyn, with Lawrence nattily attired in leather pajamas, all dressed up and clearly looking for his next big showcase.